Make Money Online: How to Choose a Profitable Niche for Your Business

Determine Whether You Have a Money-Making Idea Before You Waste Your Time

Here on the Entrepreneurs' site, we naturally focus a lot on ways of making money online, while working from home, or even while you sleep. Part of the entrepreneurs' credo is finding a way to maximize cash inflow ​while minimizing expenses and effort. 

And if you've been reading this site for a while, you probably know a bit about various methods for making money online: from building a profitable blog to information products to affiliate marketing and beyond. 

The problem is that, as you know, the road to ruin is paved with good intentions. So many good ideas flounder or never come to fruition. Not because they are bad ideas, but because they aren't tested and refined. 

In the spirit of the Lean Startup, I want to throw open the doors on the process of settling on, and testing the validity of a profitable online business. 

Over the next few months, I'll be launching a few pilots, to completely walk you through the nuts and bolts of running and building a worthwhile online business. Below, you'll find the first round of ideas that I will now go about testing and "validating" as actual online businesses. 

Not every idea is great, and not every idea will survive, but every idea will offer lessons. Lessons you can learn from. Mistakes you can avoid. Techniques you can implement to help your own ideas success. 

I hope you'll join me on the journey. 

Training/Coaching and Information Products

Make a plan, build your business
Dan Bannister/Getty Images

Many entrepreneurs will urge you to learn to profit from your own expertise, so this is the first route I'm going to pursue for my online business experiment. Coaching and information product businesses are all about turning your expertise into either a book, video or course that people will pay you for. 

In the past few months, it just so happens that I've picked up a hopping sideline business in helping bloggers move from Blogspot or Typepad to the much more feature-rich WordPress platform. From working with these clients I have learned a lot about the market for services related to helping bloggers enhance their blogs. 

My first experiment will thus be revampyourwebsite.com, a coaching business that will include instruction and individualized attention from me. 

I have a good feeling about this one because I already make a good chunk of my living teaching students and providing training to corporate clients. Online education is a field that I know well so at this point my main challenge will be shaping the class and finding students at the price point I set. 

Try it yourself: do you have a special expertise you feel might be in demand as an online class? 

Affiliate Marketing

A couple of years ago I read about the burgeoning appetite among readers for a genre of a book called "New Adult" -- basically contemporary romance which picks up where "Young Adult" leaves off. It seems that a crop of writers are making a living in this niche by self-publishing for Amazon Kindle, and their output, in the wake of the runaway success of Fifty Shades of Grey, can barely keep up with demand. 

At the time, I bought the domain newadultreview.com, and I am now looking to see whether I can build demand for this niche. My model here will be built around Amazon Associates. 

Try it yourself: Attach your passion for a particular subject an Amazon Associate store. Here's how to get started. 

Hybrid

My next online business pilot came from a joke with a colleague who introduced me to the Lean Startup. "Just call me the "lean copywriter," I joked, after tweaking a copy line. Hmmm, I thought to myself, I wonder if that domain is available? It was and I snapped it up. 

With this business, I'm hoping to realize a hybrid approach -- both the sale of an online course (probably hosted on Udemy), with affiliate revenue from other courses and maybe Amazon products. 

Try it yourself: It's much easier to set up a site and build revenue than you might think. Here's how to get started.  

Muse Business/Drop Shipping

Dogs and business
Could this dog know more about your business than you do?. Thomas Barwick/Stone/Getty Images

Have you ever heard of a "muse business"? I hadn't until I read Tim Ferriss' The Four Hour Workweek. The idea is to create a business that requires little effort from you and supports the rest of your lifestyle (which hopefully involves a lot of sitting on the beach). A popular concept for muse businesses is "drop shipping," where you outsource the shipping and fulfillment process for products to a third party. You sell, and you don't pay for inventory unless someone is buying. Simple yet very intriguing. 

This one seems like the hardest one to pull off from my perspective but I love a challenge and I thought about something I really love (dogs!). Pawsitively Fourth Street is the result. I'll reveal more about how I plan to roll this out in the future but for now, consider it my most experimental idea. 

Try it yourself: Chew on these tips from a successful "muse" business

Rejected Idea #1: Blogging

Business Planning
Jasper James/Stone/Getty Images

I constantly have ideas for amazing blogs -- and I'm constantly inspired by people who build businesses around blogs. The problem? I know all too well how much time and effort it takes to build a profitable blog. So this is one idea I'm tabling for the future. 

Carve your own path: Just because I'm lazy, doesn't mean you need to be. Here's how to build a profitable blog empire. 

Rejected Idea #2: Podcast

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George Coppock/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Podcasts are super hot right now (there's even one about building a podcasting business). I love the idea of running a podcast, but like my reservations about blogging, I just don't feel I have the time right now to devote to content. 

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