The feeling you get when you decide you want to start an online business is hard to describe. You get a rush of excitement, like you’re about to have total control of your life and achieve all of your goals, once and for all.
But not long after, fear starts to creep in.
You realize you have little to no money to get started with. You feel like you have no relevant business experience. How could I ever pull this off, you think.
But your worries, while understandable, are probably overblown. Yes, money and experience do matter, but they’re not an excluding criteria to becoming an entrepreneur.
We’ve written previously about the best online business ideas you can start with no money. In this article, you will discover five digital startup ideas that you can launch with no experience, whatsoever.
Digital Startup Idea #1: Start a Blog
Experience Required: Little to none. Passion on the subject and discipline to publish consistently matters more than anything.
Starting a blog is an ideal idea for anyone who loves to write and share their knowledge with the world.
The costs to launch a blog are also slim to none:
- Hosting with companies like Bluehost and GoDaddy will cost you less than $10 a month
- Buying a domain also costs around $10 a year, and installing WordPress on a site is free
- A premium web design in a marketplace like Themeforest will cost you less than $100
Most of your effort (that is, the cost of your time) will have to be focused on creating content and promoting it effectively. Most importantly, you don’t have to have any experience. Ideally, some experience in content writing and digital marketing can certainly help, but either way, you can acquire both skills with enough practice and time to learn.
How to Start a Blog
First, you need to choose a niche for your blog, keeping in mind the possibilities for monetization—affiliate marketing, advertising your services, selling products, etc. But this will largely be driven by your interests and background.
Then you want to pick a name. The best blog names are often descriptive, something that can help people in your industry know what it’s about just by reading the name.
You could potentially pick your own name as your blog name if you want to use it to generate leads for your freelance or consulting business (check below for more information on that) or if you want to become an authority in your industry. Good examples include Marie Forleo and Lewis Howes.
Once you have bought your domain, you need to get your blog set up. To do that, you need hosting and a CMS (basically, the technology that lets you write, edit, and post content). There are hundreds of hosting companies, and they’re all equally cheap and good for modest volumes of traffic (which will be your case in the early days).
Don’t spend too much time thinking about hosting because, honestly, it doesn’t matter that much early on. Pick one you like and move on. Eventually, you can change your hosting company if you don’t like the one you picked.
Once you buy the hosting, install WordPress on it. Any hosting company worth its salt will give you a one-click WordPress installation, so this should be really easy to do.
Alternatively, you can use a company like Squarespace, which gives you the domain, hosting, and the CMS all in one; all for one monthly fee.
Then you need to customize the look of your blog. A site like Themeforest offers thousands of premium templates to buy from, so check them out and pick one that best fits your brand.
If you’re unsure about which theme to buy, check your competitors. What does their design look like? For example, most cooking blogs tend to use minimalist designs with lots of creamy colors and white space. I know, it’s not too creative, but at this stage, you want to be innovative with your content and marketing, not with your design.
If possible, try to get a cheap freelancer from a site like Upwork to tweak your design so it looks original. You can get front-end developers for $10 to $20 per hour to install your plugins and customize your look.
Before you get started on writing, check your competitors once again and see what content has the most shares and comments. Use a tool like Ahrefs to check for the links they are getting.
Comments, links, and shares can work like a proxy for quality; the more of these three things a post gets, the more likely they’re deemed valuable by your potential readers.
That means you want to create that type of content for your blog to gain popularity in your industry.
Check for keywords as well (again, Ahrefs will be useful for this) so you can get an idea of the type of content people search in Google. The higher volume a keyword has, the more traffic you could potentially attract.
When it comes to promoting your blog, you want to do a mix of SEO, social media, and email marketing. The first will help you get organic traffic from search engines, while the other two will help you connect with your audience and build a following.
Finally, you need to think about blog monetization. In this case, you can choose between a mix of the following options:
- Affiliate marketing: That is, recommending other people’s products and getting a small fee any time one of your visitors buys from them
- Consulting: You can offer custom services to your audience and make money right away.
- Digital products: You can sell your knowledge in the shape of an ebook, a course, or a set of downloadable worksheets and templates.
The best bloggers usually mix all these options together so they don’t push any one option too heavily to their customer base.
At the end of the day, starting a blog is a wonderful option for anyone who wants to start a business by working a few hours a week from the comfort of their own home.
Digital Startup Idea #2: Become an Instagram Influencer
Experience Required: None. An eye for design and a love of engaging with people on the internet can help you create the right content and become popular fast.
As of June 2018, Instagram boasts over 1 billion users, which puts it among the largest and most important social networks in the world.
As its popularity has grown, a new type of user has emerged, known as an influencer. These are Instagram users who amass loyal audiences of followers and can influence those followers’ behaviors and buying habits.
One of the best parts about working to become an Instagram influencer is that you need nothing more than a phone with a good camera. These days, most decent phones come with great cameras, especially the latest iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones.
You’ll also need free mobile editing software like Adobe Lightroom or Snapseed, or even just Instagram’s own editing software, and you’re good to go.
How to Become an Instagram Influencer
As with a blog, you want to start with a niche you’re passionate about. The people who follow you want to feel a connection with you, so if you love fashion, for example, you will have to show off your own style and talk about it in the majority of your posts.
You also want to tell stories—whether in the shape of traditional posts, stories (the feature), and live streamings. You want to give them a reason to trust you, follow you, and engage with you.
Throughout the journey of building an Instagram following, you need to be authentic. You need to be vulnerable, share the person behind the photo, and talk with your audience as if they were your friends.
Top influencers, even people with massive audiences like Chiara Ferragni and Paul Nicklen, often talk about their flaws and pains. This is powerful, as it allows their followers to empathize with them and feel a connection over shared problems.
A key way to develop your authority and recognizability is to post with a certain consistent theme. You should pick similar color combinations, similar topics, and similar ideas, and use them over time, consistently.
In our account, we often publish a mix of quotes, challenges, and sometimes some excerpts from our YouTube videos. We even use a relatively similar design theme so we can create consistency in our brand and stand out from the rest.
Another important point to remember is that you need to post content consistently. At first, you want to publish once a day, if not a few times a day, so you can start to gain momentum.
Your goal when getting started shouldn’t be to get a following that reaches the millions, or even hundreds of thousands. You want to get a small yet loyal following; what Kevin Kelly coined the “1,000 true fans.”
These 1,000 true fans will be the people who will like and comment on every post, and most importantly, the people who will help you make a living off of your Instagram account.
When it comes to the specifics of building your following, there’s a lot to be said. In our case, we were able to go from zero to more than 10,000 followers in two weeks by following a straightforward process we’ve shared in this post.
Finally, your Instagram following monetization will be similar to the blog—affiliate marketing and promoting digital products. But you can also use sponsored posts.
Becoming an Instagram influencer takes time, but if you like to create content and engage with people, it can be a wonderful business to start on the side.
If you want to learn exactly how Foundr got 500K engaged Instagram followers in 12 months, check out our FREE Instagram masterclass.
Digital Startup Idea #3: Launch Your Ecommerce Empire
Experience Required: Any business, marketing, or design experience will help, but it’s not required.
This doesn’t make launching an ecommerce store any easier; you still need to find a need in the market, fund your manufacturing, and market your products. But even if you lack experience, you can learn as you go, just like hundreds of successful ecommerce entrepreneurs, and with enough determination, succeed.
It can help to follow a course like Foundr’s, Start & Scale, which outlines the same process a successful ecommerce entrepreneur like Gretta van Riel used to launch a multimillion dollar empire.
In either case, here’s the basic outline of what it takes to launch your own online store.
How to Launch Your Ecommerce Store
To launch your ecommerce store, you need to start by picking the right product. Don’t start just by picking a product you like or that you suspect could work.
Instead, you want to think about the needs people want to satisfy and what they’d be willing to pay money for. You need to research your potential customers to find these pains and the products that best solve them, using a variety of techniques to validate your idea.
As you brainstorm for potential product ideas, focus on products that fit what’s known as the “golden trifecta:”
- Popular: You ideally want a product that’s popular and that people are currently buying.
- Light: You want a product that’s lightweight. This will make shipping your products much cheaper and efficient.
- Cost-efficient and high-value: Look for products that have low production costs and high-perceived value. The value of an object is always subjective, and so it’s always tied to the given audience. What does your audience value the most? Try to find a product that provides that value at a low cost.
As you make a list of potential products to sell, you need to pick a name for your business. It should also be related to your value proposition—the way you solve your customer’s problem—and clear.
Once you decide on a name, you need to buy a domain and open an account with any of the large ecommerce platforms. Buy a theme (all the large ecommerce platforms have their own free and premium themes you can get for less then $200) and set up the most essential pages, like:
- The shop page where you showcase all your products
- Your product page(s)
- Your about page
- Your shipping and returns page
- The contact and help pages
- The FAQs
Up until this point, your costs will be as low as $29 per month for your ecommerce platform and a few hundred dollars (a one-time fee) for your theme. But the majority of the costs of starting an ecommerce business are related to the manufacturing of your products.
When getting started, you have two options:
- Manufacture locally
- Manufacture in China or countries like Mexico and Vietnam, where costs are lower.
The former option has one advantage: it’s easier to negotiate with manufacturers when you share the same culture and geography. A local company may let you start with a smaller initial order (even if the costs per unit are higher) and thus save a lot of money.
You can also keep a tighter grip on quality control, as well as the logistics, which are simpler and cheaper than importing stock from Asia.
A Chinese manufacturer will most likely offer lower production costs, but it will be much harder to test, develop, and distribute your products, potentially increasing your costs in the long run.
In either case, you want to communicate with both types of manufacturers to see which one is best for your situation.
If you want to go global, search for manufacturers on Alibaba, an online platform that hosts thousands of worldwide manufacturers from any industry imaginable.
As your production runs, you want to start promoting your store by building an email list and hyping up your products. Share your early prototypes, start creating content, and communicate with potential customers.
Once you have finished with your production and distribution, you need to start promoting your store. This includes a mix of SEO, social media, content marketing, and even offline advertising (think traditional TV or radio advertising).
There’s a whole lot you need to know before you can launch your ecommerce store. For more information on the subject, check out these guides:
- How to Start an Ecommerce Business: The Ultimate Guide
- How to start a profitable online store in 12 weeks or less without any prior knowledge or experience
- How to Find a Reliable Overseas Manufacturer to Bring Your Product Vision to Life
Digital Startup Idea #4: Start a YouTube Channel
Experience needed: None. Video editing can certainly help, but you can learn on the go.
Most importantly, YouTube is a great business opportunity, just like blogging or becoming an Instagram influencer. Your only job is to record videos consistently and make them appealing to your audience.
The experience required is the same as with blogging or Instagram. It helps, but it’s not mandatory. And the costs are manageable thanks to smartphones with high-definition cameras.
How to Start Your YouTube Channel
To start, you need to register a Google account (if you don’t already have one) and create a new YouTube channel using your Google account.
Then you need to set up your channel, which includes:
- Adding a logo and background image
- Adding links to your other social media accounts
- Adding a description
Setting up a YouTube channel is super easy and requires zero design skills or even hosting. The most important thing to focus on, as you can imagine, is the video creation. When creating videos for YouTube, there are five things you need to think about:
- Create valuable content that educates and entertains your audience.
- Be original by being yourself on camera. Don’t copy other YouTube influencers. Instead, play to your strengths and be yourself—whether that means you’re geeky or serious; people want to see regular people they can relate to, just like on Instagram.
- Research other YouTube influencers to get ideas and see what’s working well, while never trying to imitate.
- Keep your videos short. The most popular YouTube videos are, on average, 4 minutes and 20 seconds long. Wistia found that one or two minutes-long videos can hold 75% of viewers compared to a five-minute video which only holds 60%, so consider making your videos shorter and see if they hold people for longer.
- Tell your viewers to subscribe in every video. Similarly, ask for their comments, shares, and likes.
Once you create a video, you need to optimize them for search. This is much easier than traditional SEO, but it still is necessary.
Research the right keywords with a tool like Ahrefs or TubeBuddy. Add them to your title, description, and tags.
The monetization of a YouTube channel is similar to the first two ideas. You can sell your own products and services, use affiliate marketing, and use sponsored posts.
You can also make money with your impressions alone. This varies a lot—some eCPMs (this is the money you get paid by Google per thousand views) can be as low as $0.01, and as high as $5 and beyond. These payout rates change by country, industry, engagement rates, and more.
To get a better idea about the money other channels in your industry make, consider using a tool like SocialBlade and StatSheep, which give you estimates on the revenues generated by more popular channels.
At the end of the day, YouTube requires the same creativity as blogging and Instagram; the only difference is the medium. If video and being on camera is your thing, this could be a great option.
- How to Get Subscribers on YouTube: Mindvalley’s Method That Tripled Subscribers in 6 Months
- How to Start a YouTube Channel for Marketing: Tips, Tactics, and Best Practices from a Pro
Digital Startup Idea #5: Create a Digital Product
Experience needed: You need to have some experience on the topic of your digital product, but the skills needed for its creation and promotion can be learned fast.
Creating an online course is one of the best ways to make money online, thanks to the fact you don’t have to print or manufacture anything.
A digital product can be anything—an ebook, an online course, a set of templates or worksheets, or even a subscription newsletter. By selling digital products, you can:
- Automate the delivery process and make passive income
- Create the product once and sell it for years
- Generate sales 24/7
- Reduce production and marketing costs
The entire work of an entrepreneur who sells digital products is focused on two aspects:
- Building an audience
- Developing the right product to sell
Research your audience and your competitors to find what people buy and would like to know which you can teach them with your digital product. Survey potential users to learn about:
- The problems they have
- How much pain they cause
- How much they’re willing to pay to solve them
- The formats they like the most
- The solutions they’ve bought before and the results
Once you have a clear idea of what you can sell, you need to create it in the format you found to be most effective.
Usually, ebooks are cheaper than entire video courses, like the ones we sell. Whatever the case, it’s best you uncover the right format through your surveys and not through mere intuition.
You also want to test the product with your audience as you build it. Send it their way and see how they react. Iterate and improve it based on their feedback.
Once you realize you have the right product that works best for your customers, then you can sell it to your entire audience through advertising, joint ventures, and other similar tactics.
There’s a lot more we can talk about this topic thanks to the fact we’ve produced and sold over a dozen courses for the past five years. For more information on how to create and sell online courses, check out these guides:
- How Foundr Sells its Premium Online Courses to Thousands of Students
- Selling Without the Sleaze: 3 Secrets to Marketing Your Digital Products With Authenticity
- How to Monetize a Loyal Audience by Selling Digital Products
So there you have it: five digital startup ideas you can start with little to no experience.
After reading this post, you may feel a mix of excitement and fear. Don’t let your anxiety and insecurity take over; that can keep thousands of entrepreneurs like you from starting a startup.
You can do it. These ideas require little money and experience; there’s nothing stopping you. Worst case, you will learn how to start a startup and become a much wiser, more experienced entrepreneur.
Can you do it? Yes. Will you do it? That’s on you.
I want to hear from you: Which of these five digital business ideas will you start?
Let me know in the comments below! I will read and comment on each message you leave.