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12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop (No Inventory Required)

Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop (No Inventory Required). The idea of starting a business is exciting. But many ideas require time, money, and risk.

Contrary to popular belief, there are actually many ways to start a business that let you focus less on the logistics and upfront costs and more on getting started.

These low-investment small-business ideas make a great entry point for beginners, bootstrappers, or anyone with a busy schedule and let you pick up a side business without having to drop everything else.

You still need to come up with a solid idea, build a brand, put effort into marketing, and provide excellent customer service. But there are ways you can bypass many traditional startup costs, such as initial inventory, warehousing, and retail space.

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop (No Inventory Required)

Here is a list of business ideas you can start on your own with a small investment.

12 Best Business Ideas you can start on the side

  1. Partner with a dropshipper
  2. Design and sell print-on-demand t-shirts
  3. Launch your own book
  4. Create digital products or courses
  5. Sell print-on-demand posters, greeting cards, and prints
  6. Start a charitable business
  7. Sell a service
  8. Create an online fashion boutique
  9. Sell handcrafted and homemade goods
  10. Build an audience you can monetize
  11. Start a pet business
  12. Create a membership program

1. Partner with a dropshipper

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

Buy stock, store it, pick it, pack it, ship it. Managing inventory is a big commitment when you’re running a business.

Dropshipping is an easy business to start and the first of our good business ideas. Dropshipping is a fulfillment model where a third-party supplier stores and ships inventory to customers on your behalf. It’s one of the best businesses to start because it’s low overhead, hands-off, and scalable.

You don’t need to handle any products yourself—you just need to make the sales and pass orders on to your supplier. In fact, it’s one of the cheapest and quickest businesses to get up and running.

You can curate products from one or more suppliers into your own online store under a theme that focuses on a specific niche, like gear for yoga enthusiasts or water bowls for dog owners.

When a customer buys a product from you, the order is sent to your supplier, who fulfills it on your behalf. However, you are still responsible for your own marketing and customer service.

There are both local and overseas suppliers you can work with, as long as you can establish a relationship with them built on trust—an unreliable supplier will reflect poorly on your brand.

Dropshipping is a low-investment way to test product-market fit and launch a business before you invest in your own original products. Just be sure to always order a sample for yourself to make sure your supplier is reliable and that the quality of the products is fit for selling to your customers.

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

Oberlo dropshipping

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

2. Design and sell print-on-demand t-shirts

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

Another dropshipping model, print on demand puts inventory, shipping, and fulfillment in the hands of a third-party supplier. But unlike the dropshipping idea above, the focus here is on customizing products with your own designs to create something original.

T-shirts, hats, phone cases, hoodies, skirts, tote bags, and more become canvases for your creativity. You can think up witty slogans for developers or references that resonate with cat owners—if there’s passion and pride within a community, there’s a potential t-shirt business you can start.

Even if you’re not a designer, you can find one to work with using freelance sites like Fiverr, Upwork, Dribbble, or 99Designs.

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With many print-on-demand services, you’re paying per product, so the base price per unit will be more expensive than if you were to order in bulk. But the advantage is that if a certain t-shirt design doesn’t sell, you haven’t actually paid for the item yet (only the design, if you outsourced it).

You can even use t-shirt mockup templates so you don’t need to spend money on a full photoshoot for every new design.

There are a variety of print-on-demand platforms you can work with, many of which can be integrated with your Shopify store for seamless order fulfillment. However, be sure to always order a sample of your product (often offered at a discount) to make sure your custom products look good.

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

Think Pup

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

3. Launch your own book

A book is just another type of product when you think about it. As such, you can create one to serve a particular demand in the market.

Cookbooks, picture books, comic books, poetry books, photo books, coffee table books, novels, and even ebooks—if you’ve got the knowledge or creativity, there are a variety of original books you can bring to the market. The options are endless—that’s why it’s one of the best businesses to start.

Print-on-demand publishing is a relatively safe way to test the waters and get started with self-publishing while giving you control over the quality and look of your book.

Lulu xPress and Blurb are popular platforms to create, order, and distribute your own books as physical and digital products.

While you can order one book at a time, costs naturally go down when you buy in bulk. Consider pre-selling or crowdfunding your book idea to ensure there’s demand and guarantee a certain number of sales so you can feel confident making a bulk order.

Launching your own book can be a great way to monetize a blog if you have or are looking to start one.

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

Lulu xPress

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

4. Create digital products or courses

Digital products like music, courses, and templates are unique on this list of small business ideas. Unlike the others, they’re not tangible products. There aren’t recurring manufacturing or shipping costs to worry about, so your margins can remain high, making it another no-brainer for the best businesses to start.

The trick is figuring out what makes for a good digital product. What is useful enough that people are willing to pay to download it?

The answers range from original instrumental beats to stock photos that can be licensed to other creators to information products and templates that help people level up their skills in a particular field.

If you’ve got a talent that can be turned into a digital product, think about packaging it into a new stream of income.

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

pixie faire

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

5. Sell print-on-demand posters, greeting cards, and prints

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

If you’re artistically inclined or know your way around a camera, you can dropship using a print-on-demand business model to let others physically own a piece of your work. Just be sure you have the rights to the content you want to print or are using public domain assets you can freely monetize.

If you’ve already got an engaged online following—say you’re a cartoonist or an urban photographer—you’re in an especially good position to give this small business idea a try.

Depending on the printer you work with, you can turn your work into products such as posters or framed wall art, even greeting cards. There are plenty of digital templates and mockup generators like Placeit you can use to showcase your products without having to print out each item and conduct your own photo shoots.

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

Zen Pencils

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

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6. Start a charitable business

Starting a non-profit organization isn’t the only path you can take to help fund a better world.

Having a mission to go along with a business, and setting aside some profit for a cause, gives social entrepreneurs a unique way to position their company in the market while addressing the issues they care about most.

While many social enterprises offer their own original products, you can also take any of the small business ideas above and partner with a non-profit or execute that social good with your own hands, as long as you’re transparent about how it works.

As part of your marketing, you can share the impact that your customers are having by supporting your business, such as a blog post covering your work in the community or a real-time impact calculator on your website.

The Give & Grow Shopify app makes it easy to partner with charitable organizations and incorporate your mission into your business. You can set it up to donate a specific amount or a percentage of sales, or ask your customers to add a donation at checkout.

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

Give and Grow

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

7. Sell a service

Offering services isn’t passive, but it can certainly be a lucrative way to gain self-employment. With services-based small business ideas, “time” is your inventory and your biggest investment. You’ve only got a limited supply of hours in your day. However, that makes it easier to get up and running if you’ve got skills that are in demand.

Writers, designers, developers, photographers, house cleaners, fitness trainers, and more can build a business around their skills.

It’s one of the best businesses to start because it can be expanded with any of the other ideas above to create additional revenue streams by “productizing” their services through physical or digital goods.

A photographer, for example, can service a local event while selling prints online through their Instagram account. A copywriter can sell a copywriting swipe file of high-converting sales copy. Coupling your service-based business with physical products can give you another source of income that isn’t directly tied to your time.

You can also offer your services through a freelance marketplace like Upwork to increase your chances of getting discovered by the people who need your skills.

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

BookThatApp


 

 

8. Create an online fashion boutique

If you love fashion and sharing your sense of style online, you can consider creating your own online fashion boutique. You don’t need to become a fashion designer either—you can simply curate items from other vendors into your own online store (using the dropshipping model we discussed earlier).

Dresses, shoes, swimwear, accessories, and more—you can build your own fashion brand using one of the several product sourcing apps for Shopify, model them in your own product photos and social media posts, and build an online following as a trendsetter.

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

MY ONLINE FASHION STORE

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

9. Sell handcrafted and homemade goods

If you’re a maker—whether you DIY soap, candles, sauces, or pottery—you’re in a unique position to find an online business idea, because product development and procurement are literally in your hands.

Unlike many of the other ideas on this list, you will need to consider shipping and inventory management, but you can start out simple on a per-order basis or with a small batch until you start generating consistent sales.

In fact, many makers on Shopify started out with a part-time home-based business, selling on Etsy or to friends and family, growing into full-time business owners after establishing demand for their products.

Just be mindful of any regulations in your product category, especially for anything customers will eat, inhale, or put on their skin.

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

Brooklyn Candle Studio

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

And Arounna Khounnoraj and John Booth are a couple who have been operating bookhou, an online and physical shop selling handmade homegoods and functional bags.

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bookhou

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

10. Build an audience you can monetize

In today’s connected world, the ability to capture and keep the attention of others is an asset. It’s one that many businesses are even willing to pay for, and one that many creators are able to convert into a business with multiple revenue streams.

Whether you choose to grow your following on YouTube, Instagram, or a blog (ideally a combination of different channels), you have many avenues for monetizing your audience:

  • Sponsored posts on behalf of brands
  • Becoming an affiliate
  • Selling physical or digital products (via any of the ideas on this list)
  • Patreon
  • A combination of the above (they’re not mutually exclusive)

Taking an audience-first approach to your small business idea means you’re playing the long game (it might be months until you’ve figured it out). But you don’t need millions of followers to do it—Instagrammer Kat Gaskin, for example, pulled off a $10k product launch with only 3,000 followers.

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

Kat Gaskin

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

11. Start a pet business

The pet industry is ripe with opportunity for all kinds of small business ideas. And it’s an industry worth nearly $100 billion, so it’s an easy business to start, with guaranteed demand. Your pet business could be product- or service-based—selling accessories, food, and toys, or offering grooming, walking, or training expertise.

Perkie Prints makes personalized printed pet products—everything from apparel to framed prints and fun projects in between.

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

Perkie Prints

On the service side of things, Let the Dog Out offers dog walking and “bathroom breaks” to his customers.

Let the Dog Out

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

Why put yourself in one box? If you want, make your pet business a combination of both products and services. Vancouver-based company barking babies is a boutique, spa, kennel, pet store, and puppy-training facility rolled into one.

12. Create a membership program

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

Online memberships aren’t just a hot new business idea that materialized from people being required to stay home during the COVID-19 crisis. Online memberships are ideal for entrepreneurs with an established active and engaged community.

They work much like a subscription-based business—customers make recurring payments in exchange for a virtual product or service.

Memberships are great for managing members-only access to content on a website, and even for physical businesses that offer guided sessions online. Yoga studios, gyms, clubs, and art schools are a few examples of businesses that can easily take advantage of this low-investment business model.

Since this content is behind a gate that only paying subscribers can access through their customer account, you can also host exclusive livestreams in addition to (or instead of) downloadable content.

Regardless of the route you take, be sure to record in a quiet space so the audio is clear and distraction free.

It’s also a good idea to use email marketing to keep your members informed of new content. Emails, video teasers, and customer testimonials are great ways to build excitement for new launches.

And it’s easy to start your membership-based business in Shopify. Set up a new product just like you would for a physical product, but create a name and description that tells people about your membership services.

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

membership screenshot 1

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

Make sure to unselect “This is a physical product” to remove shipping options at checkout. (Note: Some of the setup required might change depending on which apps you choose to use later in the process!)

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

membership screenshot 2

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop. If you want to offer different options for your memberships, create variants. You can set different prices for each option and limit the number of times available, if needed, by editing each variant.

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

membership screenshot 3

12 Best Business Ideas You Can Start From a Laptop

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