While the online business space is dominated by major players like Amazon and eBay, there are still plenty of opportunities for solo internet entrepreneurs to start up a profitable online business.

Whatever your niche, whatever your product, whatever your industry, there’s a place for you in the marketplace. And thanks to a bevy of tools, services, and proven strategies available to online entrepreneurs, it’s never been easier to start an online business make a hefty profit.
The opportunity -- and the potential to profit -- is only getting better in the online marketplace. There are several factors at play here, thanks to some very positive online business trends.

  • More people than ever are shopping online. According to industry watcher Mintel, 69% of Americans do so regularly.
  • The software and online tools available make it possible for anyone to build and manage an e-commerce website. And you can do it for well under $100.
  • Marketing online is cheap and easy - again, anybody can do it. And with social media platforms like Facebook, there are ever-increasing ways to reach your customers.
But how do you get started? How do you go from where you are now, to a massive passive income that allows you to quit your day job and enjoy ultimate time and financial freedom?
Like anything in life, you start from the beginning. Here are the steps to creating your online business, proven methods used by thousands of successful online business entrepreneurs.

Pick a Profitable Market

This is where you have to set aside your own ego for a minute.
You may have had a “dream business” in mind for years. You just know in your heart that a certain niche is profitable, or that a certain product will sell like gangbusters. But until you do the actual market research you won’t really know. And it’s not worth investing your startup capital -- time and money -- until you know for sure a particular market is worth pursuing.
Basically, you have to start with the market first. You have to identify what niches are popular right now, and what types of products are hot. But be careful not to pick something that is a flash in the pan. (Remember those wheeled “hoverboards” that were all the rage a couple of years back?
Where are they now?) Instead, you want something with staying power. Such stable markets include:
  • Pet care
  • Exercise programs and weight loss
  • Nutritional supplements and natural cures
  • Travel
  • Photography
  • Video games
Some ways to identify a hot market are to look at online retailers like Amazon.com -- what are the top sellers? Keep an eye on the news, too: Pick up magazines and see what’s advertised or written about. And see what people talking about (or what's being advertised) on Facebook. All of these provide clues for finding a potentially profitable market.
It may seem counterintuitive, but you want to see a lot of competition in your market. It’s actually best, at least for a small-scale entrepreneur like yourself, not to be a pioneer that is first to market. You want to go where there’s already a large group of people ready to buy.

The Easiest Way to Start an Online Business: Affiliate Marketing

Once you’ve picked your hot market with profit potential, it’s time to figure what to sell them. Fortunately, you don't have to develop, produce, or even source your own products! There's an easy way to leverage existing products with a proven track record for profitability. It's called affiliate marketing.
With affiliate marketing, the products are proven to sell, and you won’t have to worry about delivery, storage, managing orders, customer service, refunds, or any of the other traditional aspects of retailing.
In an affiliate marketing business, you do the marketing and promotion of products through your e-commerce site, but the online retailer (or the company that created the product) handles the rest. And, as an affiliate, you get a commission (from 5% and up, depending on the product) every time somebody buys. This is a great way to get started with your business.
Amazon has a good affiliate program, with a huge variety of products.
Clickbank.com specializes in information products, although they have physical products too. You’ll also find big-name retailers on CJ Affiliate by Conversant (formerly called Commission Junction). But just about every niche and industry has an affiliate program. Do some online digging if these don’t fit your market or business.

Set Up Your Website So You Have Total Control

You have your market, and you have your product. Now it’s time to set up your online storefront, which is where you’ll market and sell your products.
You don’t have to be a tech genius to set up your own website for your online business, and you don’t have to hire an expensive web designer, either. With the software and online programs and services available today, anybody can create a professional-looking website that includes a shopping cart, list building capabilities, blogging, and everything else you need for your thriving online business.
And the best part of all is that it’s either free or at least very low cost. Programs like WordPress or Squarespace they offer ready-to-go templates. Creating your site is as easy as filling up boxes with your sales pages and email sign-up boxes, filling in your products in your shopping cart, and creating other relevant content. If you can send an email, you can set up a website. Plus, you can update and change your site's look and content without needing any web development experience.
These are robust platforms, with plenty of apps and plug-ins for search engine optimization, marketing efforts, analytics to track visitors to your site and much more. As far as getting web hosting and picking a domain name, you can often handle that through the same service you used to build the website or go with a specialized service like GoDaddy. It’s up to you.
Of course, you could hire a professional to build your website, but this approach carries significant downsides. They’re expensive, for one. They often take a long time, especially if you hire one with a backlog of clients. You have to contact them (and pay them) whenever you want to make changes. And they charge by the hour, which isn’t good when you’re on a start-up budget.
But with the providers I've mentioned, you don't have to worry about any of that. You'll be in charge of your website and can make changes 24/7 -- and that puts you in total control of your online business.

4 Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Online Business

The cheapest -- but most time-consuming method -- to drive traffic to your online business is to slowly but surely add valuable content (written or video) about your niche to your website and/or blog. This will attract the attention of search engines like Google. These search engine optimization (SEO) efforts will pay off in increasing traffic to your website by those people searching for information on your topic. A percentage of those people will sign up for your email list as well. That’s why it’s best to have a sign-up box, usually asking for a first name and email address, prominently on your homepage.
But for this to work, you do have to be consistent. You must add fresh, relevant content several times a week, if not daily. Say you have a yoga-focused business. You could write about trends, review yoga DVDs, comment on yoga-related new stories, and comment on yoga styles. Start a conversation with your prospects and offer valuable information and insight, and do it in a way that will appeal to potential customers searching for information on the topic.
Social media is another low-cost way to drive traffic to your website and build your list. With Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms, you can set up a free account and post content related to your business. As with blogging or web content, it should be a mix of useful and actionable content, as well as direct invitations to visit your site and sign up for the list (or even buy products).
Again, post regularly and be consistent with your messages.
One of the most important traffic drivers out there is YouTube. In many ways, it’s one of the world’s top search engines: If people have a question about a topic, they often go to YouTube to find the answer. To take advantage of that, you can post explainer videos, talking head videos where you explain a topic related to your niche and how-to videos. Just provide useful content – and a link back to your website.
Of course, there are also paid advertising methods to drive traffic as well, including banner ads, insert ads, pay-per-click ads, and more. But this can get expensive. So I recommend focusing on free ways of driving traffic at the beginning. Get your website just how you want it to be, get your product mix right, fine-tune your online business overall, start making some sales. Then, once you have a little revenue you can sink back in your business, you can explore paid ads.

But it will take some time and effort, and you’ll have to make some tough choices along the way. The trick is to do a little bit each day, and go in order: Find your market, then your product, then build your site and start marketing. Do this, and you'll build a solid foundation for a business that will last and bring in income for years to come.