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7 Best Online Businesses Ideas to Start in UK for 2023

The internet age gives new meaning to the phrase “You are your own master.” It has become easier than ever to start a business from home; whether you’d like to have one as a side hustle to cushion you against tough times or as your primary source of income is entirely your choice. 

In this article, we look at 7 of the top online business ideas in the UK, which you can try out today. Dive in!

1. Starting an e-commerce store in the UK

From selling handmade home decor items to tarot reading services, an online shop exists for every need. The first step, of course, is to decide what you want to sell online. It has to be a product you have expertise in, which can be made to order since you wouldn’t want to keep a vast inventory. At the same time, it is essential to note that you cannot take too much time creating the product, or your customer might lose interest and decide to cancel or find another vendor. 

Once you have decided on your product line, you should find an online platform to help you create an online interface listing all your products. Shopline helps you do this with ease. You can integrate Shopline’s website with your Facebook or Instagram page and redirect users to the online site for order completion. Choosing an easy-to-use, customisable, and budget-friendly platform is vital for beginners, and Shopline offers you all this and more!

It doesn’t stop here, though. You will also need to:

  • register your business with Companies House if you plan to trade under a company name. You may also need to register for VAT if your annual sales exceed the threshold.
  • choose a payment gateway that accepts various payment methods and integrates with your e-commerce platform.
  • decide shipping rates, delivery options, and returns policies, and set up a customer service process. 

Creating an e-commerce store requires hard work, patience, and dedication. Ensure you promote your online store through social media, search engine optimization, and other marketing strategies to attract customers.

2. Creating an online course for your UK audience

Creating an online course if you're in the UK is a great way to share your knowledge and skills with a global audience. Some of the most popular online course ideas include Digital Marketing, Web Development, Creative Writing, Data Science, Personal Development, and courses for those who want to speak English better. 

Here are some steps to help you get started:

Choose your topic

  • Decide on a topic you're knowledgeable about and passionate about teaching. Ensure that there's a demand for the topic by researching and understanding what the competition offers.

Define your learning outcomes

  • Determine what you want your students to learn and the skills they'll acquire from taking your course. Since you're an independent business, you cannot offer certifications, but you could build an assessment system that shows how far your students have come during the course. 

Plan and develop your course

  • Create a course outline and break it into modules and lessons.
  • Ensure that your course is structured and follows a logical flow.
  • Develop course materials such as slides, videos, worksheets, quizzes, and assessments that align with this flow. If you're creating video content, invest in good equipment such as a camera, microphone, and lighting.
  • Record and edit your videos to ensure they're of high quality.

Choose a hosting platform

  • Choose a learning management system (LMS) platform such as Thinkific, Teachable, or Udemy to host your course.
  • Make sure you pick an LMS you find easy to use and which has options for customised branding.
  • More importantly, look at the analytics features on offer to get an accurate insight into your audience's preferences. 

Market your course

  • Promote your course through social media, email marketing, and other channels to attract potential students. If it's a very niche course, consider collaborating with other creators or attending events and trade fairs to amplify brand recognition. 

3. Owning your own affiliate marketing business in the UK

Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing where a business (the merchant) rewards one or more affiliates (publishers or advertisers) for each sale or lead that is generated through their promotional efforts.

In affiliate marketing, the merchant provides the affiliate with unique tracking links or codes to use in their marketing efforts. When a customer clicks on the affiliate's link and makes a purchase or completes a desired action (such as filling out a form), the affiliate earns a commission on the sale or lead.

Amazon is one of the best examples of affiliate marketing programs. You can look for affiliate programs that align with your passion or niche through affiliate networks such as CJ Affiliate, ShareASale, and Awin. Check the utility of these products and products and the commission rates offered. Remember to read the fine print!

Now, you need to create content that is relevant to your chosen products to draw in the audience. For instance, if you are marketing home decor products, you can create a blog, an online course, or a YouTube channel focused on home decor and market it to the relevant demographic. You will need to create high-quality content that is engaging, informative, and relevant and include affiliate links through product reviews, comparison articles, or tutorials.

Ensure you comply with the UK's advertising and consumer protection regulations, such as the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) guidelines. Remember to track your affiliate sales and commissions and monitor your website or blog's traffic and engagement. Use this data to optimize your content and promotional strategies, build a strong readership and generate consistent sales.

4. Running a social media management business in UK

In the era of Instagram and Snapchat, social media strategy development, content creation, community management, and advertising are must-have functions for any business. If you wish to own your own social media management business, focusing on a specific niche is essential to stand out in a competitive market.

Here are some pointers that might help you find your footing in this domain:

  • Develop a comprehensive business plan that outlines your services, target market, pricing strategy, marketing plan, and financial projections. A business plan will help you stay focused and organised as you launch and grow your business.

  • Create a brand identity that reflects your values and mission. Develop a logo, website, and social media profiles that showcase your brand and your services.

  • Build a portfolio of your work to showcase your skills and experience. Include case studies, testimonials, and examples of social media campaigns you've managed. Attend industry events, join online groups and forums, and network with potential clients to build a strong network of contacts and potential clients. 

  • Promote your social media management services through your website, social media profiles, and networking events. Reach out to potential clients and offer them a free consultation to discuss their social media needs.

  • Promise realistic results and be transparent in what you can and cannot offer. Understand your client's business so you can add value to their bottom line. Build trust and establish long-term relationships. Continuously evaluate and adjust your strategy to achieve better results.

  • Remember that social media is a dynamic and constantly evolving industry. It's essential to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and tools to provide effective social media services to your clients. 

  • Ensure you comply with UK regulations, such as data protection laws and advertising guidelines, when managing social media accounts and advertising campaigns.

5. Building an online bookstore and readership in the UK

Despite all the charms of social media, there exists a group of defiant readers in the UK and across the globe who prefer the company of hardbound books over reels and shorts. An online bookstore is a niche business, but you can attract a loyal community of readers who will keep coming back for more. 

Running an online bookstore has its perks. You can customise products and choose to cater to only specific segments. For instance, you could start a bookstore for lovers of historical fiction and curate titles from across the globe. Or, look for rare finds and sell them online. If you are not looking to stock inventory, you will need to find a way to source the books and ship them to the customer. 

Once you have built a community, you can offer subscription services and merchandise or create genre-specific events. Book readings, poetry club meetings, storytelling sessions - the ideas are a dime a dozen! Since your bookstore is online, you can also invite attendees from other countries to join in and be a part of these clubs virtually. 

Consider partnering with local talent and promoting new writers and independent publishers to offer unique titles. Book promotions can be done via social media, and you can use trending hashtags (#booklovers has 6.8 million posts under it) for social chatter. However, you will need a platform where users can peruse all the titles and complete the order process. Shopline offers a range of customizable templates that you can use to create an online bookstore that reflects your brand and meets your customers' needs. The Shopline platform also integrates multiple payment and shipping options so that you can ship your books both locally and internationally. 

6. Becoming a virtual assistant in the UK

A virtual assistant is a self-employed freelance professional who provides administrative, technical, or creative assistance to clients remotely from a home office or a remote location. Virtual assistants work for entrepreneurs, small business owners, executives, and busy individuals who need help with email management, scheduling, bookkeeping, social media management, customer service, research, and other administrative or creative tasks.

According to Glassdoor, the annual pay for a virtual assistant in the UK is about £26,284. Virtual assistants are hired by a wide range of UK companies across various industries and sectors. Some of the common types of companies that may hire virtual assistants include:

  • Small business owners who need administrative support but may not have the resources to hire full-time staff may hire virtual assistants.

  • Entrepreneurs who run multiple businesses or projects may hire virtual assistants to help manage their workload.

  • Freelancers or self-employed individuals may hire virtual assistants to handle administrative tasks like bookkeeping or scheduling, allowing them to focus on their core business activities.

  • Startups looking to grow their business and scale up may hire virtual assistants to handle various tasks and administrative duties.

  • Online businesses like e-commerce stores or digital marketing agencies may hire virtual assistants to handle customer service, social media management, or other administrative tasks.

Tips to keep in mind when starting a virtual assistant business in the UK

  • Determine your niche: Specialise in a particular service or industry to differentiate yourself from other virtual assistants and attract clients needing your expertise.

  • Build a professional website: Create a website that reflects your brand, showcases your services, and includes client testimonials. Make sure it is mobile-friendly, easy to navigate, and optimised for search engines.

  • Network and market yourself: Join online forums, attend industry events, and connect with other virtual assistants to build relationships and find potential clients. Use social media, email marketing, and other channels to promote your services.

  • Establish transparent processes: Develop a system for onboarding new clients, managing projects, and invoicing. Use project management tools and time-tracking software to streamline your workflow.

  • Set fair pricing: Research industry standards and set a fair service rate. Consider charging per project, per hour, or on a retainer basis.

  • Maintain good communication: Communicate clearly with clients and establish expectations upfront. Provide regular progress updates, meet deadlines, and respond promptly to inquiries.

  • Stay up-to-date: Stay informed about the latest virtual assistant trends, tools, and best practices. Attend conferences, read industry blogs, and take online courses to stay ahead of the curve.

7. Handling a dropshipping business in the UK

In the physical world, when we all need retail therapy, we walk into our closest store and pick an item from the stocked shelves. This stock of products is called an inventory. In the traditional shipping model, the supplier (wholesaler or manufacturer) sends a fixed number of products (inventory) to the store; the store owner is responsible for selling this stock and keeping it safe, and the inventory is replenished once the stock runs out. 

In the dropshipping model, the store acts as a middleman between the customer and the supplier, taking orders and processing payments but not physically handling or storing the products. The supplier is responsible for storing the inventory and fulfilling the orders on behalf of the store.

So, if you’re creating an online dropshipping store, you must liaise directly with the manufacturers and create a chain of command so that the respective vendor fulfills every order placed on your website. In this scenario, you act as the marketing arm of the business, helping the product makers reach a wider audience without spending money on promotions. For example, artisans and crafters who make unique and personalised products may offer dropshipping services to reach a broader range of customers without managing shipping and fulfillment logistics.

Once you have established partnerships with suppliers, you can start building an e-commerce website or storefront on Shopline to list and sell your products. Optimising your website for search engines to drive traffic to your site and increase sales is important. You will also need to manage customer orders, payments, and shipping logistics through a third-party service or by handling these tasks yourself. As you build your business, monitor your performance, adjust your strategy as needed, and stay updated with industry trends and best practices.

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