work from homeStart An Online Business Free?

  • Starting an online business because you want to retire early and rich?
  • Or because you retired too early and you're cash-strapped?

Whatever your reason for wanting to start an online business, do you get tempting sounding emails promising low risk businesses to start from home? Promising that you can start for free, for no effort, and the cash will roll in.

Wow – sounds a dream.

Which is precisely what it is – a dream fantasy. A minute's analysis will dispel the myth. Because for profit to be generated, money must come from somewhere. If you want to build an online business, you must expect there to be costs involved.

OK, strictly speaking I know there are sites where you can build an income doing micro-tasks, but I wouldn't like to guess how long it takes. I was thinking of “SixFigureIncome”, but I can't actually find it any more – if anyone is a happy member, please feel free to share your experiences in the comments.

The idea that you can “start a free business online” is flawed, and therefore risky. I am firmly of the opinion that for any business to be profitable you need to spend a little bit of money to work smart instead of hard.

Low Risk Businesses To Start From Home

Of course when you decide to start a business, to make money online, the last thing you want to do is SPEND more money than you make. The idea is to make a profit, and – given your need to make money – it's fairly likely that you're not wanting to put any significant sums of money at risk – especially on a repeat basis.

Putting this in the context of buying a retail shop (quoted only because this is my family business background), youLow Risk Businesses To Start From Home might buy a shop and outlay some money to put stock into it.

So far so good and no more than you'd expect to do.

But if at the end of the month you hadn't sold your original stock, it would seem rather risky to go out and buy MORE stock, hoping that next month you will sell both sets of stock.

So when choosing a full-time or part-time business, you should only risk money you can afford to lose in the worst case.

Never put at risk money you need for food or accomodation. Instead, fund your business venture by cutting back on luxuries such as nights out. And don't commit yourself to regular costs where you “lose everything” if things don't work out as planned and you have to put the business on hold temporarily.

That's a simplistic approach to managing the risks of a home based business.

Of course, those of us who work from home are lucky, because we reduce our risks (costs) by having no additional premises to fund. We reduce travel costs, and we can reduce start-up risks by starting a business part-time while continuing any additional job or business.

So let's look briefly at some low risk / low cost businesses you can start part-time or full-time.

Freelance Sites

If you have a particular skill you can market (e.g. copy-writing, web-design, proof-reading) there are many reputable freelance sites where you can register for work. Here are just a few – in no particular order:

Even if you have no particular skill, I encourage you to register on these sites and look at the tasks being offered. They range from $1,000+ jobs so complicated I don't know what's being requested, right down to $5 bit parts in videos where someone is needed to say just a few words.insults

Fiverr in particular is noted for outlandish requests!

In the “Fun and Bizarre” sectron, there are ladies who will “Pop 12 inch balloons” for you, and also those who will “Chat to you on any subject”. There's even people you can insult, or be insulted by, for specific time periods. Weird.

warning-px_250Please note – I am suggesting places where you can find work. I am NOT recommending certain services – especially the “chatting” ones, or those where you can buy Facbook Likes, Twitter Followers, etc.

Some people have discovered, to their cost, that certain purchased Likes / Followers are fake.

The secret to success with freelance sites like these is to start by offering your services inexpensively, build yourself a good reputation, and you can then charge for add-ons as your repeat customer base expands.

Of course the main income limitation of sites like these is that you are still selling your time by the hour or minute. If you are unable to work for any reason (good, e.g. holiday, or bad e.g. illness), your income stops too. You may be wiser to build a low risk business that can carry on generating income even when you're not physically working at it yourself.

family timeThe previous paragraph is one of the main reasons I began to look for an online business to supplement my poor pension provisions.

As well as an extra income, I wanted more free time. You'll see why on the right, as my visiting Dad settles down to a serious game of Bingo with the younger members of the family.

Here are the two low risk business types I am building – two, because the first business is equipping me with skills that I need to build the second.

Product Production vs Affiliate Marketing

Many Internet Marketing coaches recommend that you produce your own digital products and market them.

Having tried this a few times (oops), I consider producing your own product a high risk strategy, because you need to learn so many skills to get started, but have no guarantee of sales.

On each occasion I produced and marketed my own digital product I never even recovered my costs – let alone making a profit 🙁

I prefer affiliate marketing where you choose from a vast range of ready-made products, and just learn the skills necessary to market them.

This earlier post gives a more detail comparison between affiliate marketing vs producing your own product.

Low Risk Businesses To Start From Home

There is no guarantee of sales in Affiliate Marketing, but at least you won't have risked time and money developing a product, and any marketing skills you will have learned are transferable to any other digital product, or any other online business.

The ready-made affiliate product I recommend and use in my business is a Content Marketing Service (affiliate link)

Using this service I save time and expense but benefit from top quality content written by professional marketers.  The cost is low, there's no long-term commitment, and the skills you learn from the contents will help you to earn in any business venture. With their affiliate program you can earn as you learn.

That's a good example of the affiliate marketing business model.

I need a genuinely part-time business I can “pick up and put down” as time permits. Something with the “admin and technical stuff” ready done for me – such as product deliveries, money handling, sales sites / videos. Affiliate marketing satisfies these criteria.

So, are there other types of low risk businesses to start from home?

Certainly! There's Network Marketing.

But Isn't Network Marketing Risky?

Another style of business said to be low risk is network marketing (multi-level-marketing aka MLM), where – for a low cost start – you receive a ready-made business with none of the traditional overheads (premises, stock, etc). All you are required to do is market a company's products to your own extended network of contacts.

It's low risk because everyone starts on a level playing field with everyone else, and you make of it what you can.

make money onlineNetwork marketing has the advantage that it can be undertaken offline or online, so you can either learn Internet Marketing – or you can make your sales face-to-face.

But be under no illusion – with traditional network marketing you will be expected to make sales. Where else will profits come from?

Because the start-up cost is low, the financial risk is low – but that can be a danger in itself, because with a low start-up cost you may be tempted to give up easily when the going gets tough – so the drop-out rate is high for all recruits.

Why Do Distributors Quit MLM?

Unfortunately MLM has a reputation for failure due to a high drop-out rate and the constant need to replace distributors who quit.

Often it turns out NOT to be the “easy option” that the “leaders” would have you believe, and some less enlightened “salesy types” still expect you to apply the 3-foot rule (tell everyone within 3-feet of you about your products.)

What fun – NOT!

Other downsides of some plans are:

  • You must make regularly monthly purchases – whether you need products or not
  • You may need to meet high sales targets
  • You may be encouraged to give away trial samples – often quite high value, so an expensive tactic
  • After attaining a particular qualification level you can still be demoted if you are inactive for a while

Is There A Better Part-time Business Model?

I'm still working full-time to “supplement” failed pension planning. It's too late to do anything about my pension, but it's not too late to have a business that I can build part-time so that it will eventually replace or supplement my current full-time income.

My life is already full even without the extra involvement of a part-time business, so I don't want the hassle of admin, spending money on products I already have, the need to meet sales targets plus the spectre of demotion.

Also, any product I promote needs to be something customers want to continue using month after month, rather than switch over to something cheaper as soon as the initial euphoria is over, which is what has happened to me in the past.

So far that reason, network marketing – as ethical as it might be in its legitimate form – is not for me.

Business Risk Warnings

With most businesses (online or offline), if you do nothing, you earn nothing. However hard you may protest, that seems fair to me.

So with most of the businesses I have mentioned above – all things being equal –  your rewards will be in some proportion to your efforts.

However, when you are using an essential service as the product of the network marketing company, or as affiliate marketing product, it doesn't matter if you earn or not – you have the benefit of the service you are paying for.

Also – remember that as a self-employed business owner you are responsible for paying the taxes and complying with all legislation in your country. Don't spend everything you earn. It's not a pay-packet like you would receive with a regular job. Set aside enough money to pay your taxes. You may be wise to employ the services of an accountant if your business takes off!


Above you have seen a variety of low risk businesses to start from home. What do you think about each of these models? How do they compare to what YOU are doing – with particular reference to cost and input of time?

Perhaps you're not really looking for a ‘proper' business to run – it's all sounding like hassle?

Perhaps you just need an extra side-income and/or a way to build up a retirement income?

In which case do check this Private Members Share Club.