8 Online Business Ideas UK

Hannah Conway
21.10.19
9 minute read

Starting a business online is tempting if you’re ready to ditch the daily commute in favour of starting their own business from anywhere with a WiFi connection. It also makes it easy to reach a global marketplace, but, what sort of online business should you start?

This guide covers an overview of easy business ideas to start online, and introduces a low-cost business solution from TransferWise for Business - so you can go global without excessive international payment charges.


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Freelancing

      1.4 million Brits freelance, with 78% of the British public thinking that it helps to promote a good work - life balance.¹

It’s clear that freelancing is becoming a popular option for many, allowing you to build a portfolio of different clients and roles, taking on jobs when you want to. In fact more or less any job you can do at a computer, you should be able to find online through a freelancing platform. This flexibility means you can secure work for global clients - but you’ll need to make sure you have a way to get paid.

Freelancing internationally means you’ll probably need a multi-currency account to which you can receive various currencies - without excessive fees hidden in marked-up exchange rates. TransferWise for Business offer a free account for freelancers to invoice like a local - to receive payments for zero fees.

Before, you can get paid though, you'll need to find a freelance gig. There are a number of websites that can help you find freelance work, so you can research what roles would suit you and your skills, as well as offering potential earnings that you’re happy with. You could work in a broad range of different fields, from freelance writing to providing customer support services online, translating or graphic design - you just need a reliable WiFi connection.

Ecommerce Business Ideas

      Ecommerce sales for UK consumers grew by 10.9% in 2019 to reach £106.46 billion.²

Ecommerce is growing as a market, and refers to pretty much any online sales of goods and services. You might be doing anything from selling homemade crafts direct to a consumer through a platform like Etsy, to providing leadership consulting services to another business via your website.

Many people starting out with home based small businesses in the UK look to sell via an existing platform like Ebay or Amazon, or create online stores themselves using ecommerce software such as Shopify or EKM. With tools and platforms like these, you can create your own small business online without necessarily needing strong coding and web development skills. That lets you focus more on the product and customer.

Whichever route you choose to take, you need to think carefully about the best way to access your earnings, and pay suppliers. Ecommerce allows you to tap into a global market and grow your business - so you need an account that lets you send and receive international payments - that is cost-effective, fast and convenient, such as the free multi-currency account from TransferWise for Business.

Drop Shipping

Dropshipping is a part of ecommerce, and is a great option if you’re starting out and want a way to start selling, without the up-front costs of buying product, storing and shipping it.

Through a dropshipping supplier, wholesaler or manufacturer you can don’t have to own the items that you list. Instead once someone places an order, the dropshipper fulfils the order, arranges the packaging and shipping to your customers.

It’s worth researching the best dropship companies for your needs. Dropshipping companies charge a fee for their services, and there are usually a range of different options you can choose, from paying a fee per item, to monthly packages based on the volume of your sales.

Mobile App Ideas

      With 2.7 billion smartphone users across the world - the mobile app industry is thriving.³

How often do you use apps to get information, goods and services conveniently? It’s a fair bet you’ve got a good range of apps downloaded on your phone, and have used one or more already today.

Creating a successful app is about identifying an issue to solve, or an opportunity to improve our lives - combined with creativity and dedication. On a more practical note, it's about deciding on an idea, mapping it out , and getting consumer feedback from your prospective customer group.

But, it's worth it - just look at the mobile app success stories. Slack, for example, founded in 2014, now has over 5 million users actively using their app - and was featured in the New York Times’ list as one of the most popular and used messaging apps.⁴

Popular app types include:

  • On-demand apps: ways to connect customers with services simply, such as apps to help you find a cleaner, gardener or healthcare provider.
  • Delivery services: delivering food, medicines, flowers or fresh bread for example.
  • Learning apps: help students with homework and language learning, or create ways adults can access personal and professional development easily.
  • Discount Apps: which help users access discounts online and in local stores.
  • Travel planning and booking apps: from local staycations to luxury breaks.

You’ll need to think carefully about the type of app you want to create, your audience, and how you might monetise the product to build your business. If you have some inspiration for a new app which you think would appeal, why not consider this as a new home business idea. You could create your own app if you have the skills, or team up with a developer to build a product you can sell.

transferwise-app

How to monetise a website

Already running a website or blog? Or are you’re a great writer looking for a new creative outlet? You could monetise your online presence and use it as your new small business.

The best ways to make money from your website or blog depend a lot on the type of site and content you’re producing. You could consider any of the following options:

  • Become an affiliate marketer - more on that in a moment.
  • Use pay per click (PPC) advertising. Google Adsense⁵ is the best place to start for this - you’ll show adverts on your website which are tailored to your audience, and receive a small commission whenever a reader clicks on the ad to learn more.
  • Sell your own advertising space - for more advanced sites with bigger reader numbers, you might consider selling ad space directly, for a larger income.
  • Create and sell your own digital products or services. We’ll talk a little more about this later - but you could create ebooks related to your blog, online courses, or even digital products like wedding invitations, which you sell online.
  • Use sponsored posts, either for money or to receive free products to review.
  • Create a paid area of your site - premium content for your paying readers, or online services such as webinars or coaching for customers who subscribe
  • Build and sell your site. If you create a site which is becoming popular, you could consider selling it to lock down your profit, and moving on to the next thing.

Affiliate Marketing UK

      81% of brands run an affiliate program, with less than 3% saying that it's not part of their business model.⁶

Affiliate marketing means you’ll help an existing business sell their products, and receive a commission on sales you generate. In some cases you’ll be paid when a sale is completed but other suppliers might offer an incentive for customers who click through to a seller’s website even if they don’t buy - known as pay per lead or pay per click.

Affiliate marketing can work in a number of different ways. If you have an existing blog with a broad readership you might publish reviews of products you love, with a link to allow readers to purchase. If you’re set up as an affiliate, you’d then get a commission on sales which come via your blog.

Some affiliate marketing gurus earn millions in affiliate marketing profits alone, but even if you don’t hit these heady heights, affiliate marketing can be a smart way to generate a passive income from your blog, website or social media following.

Self-Publish on Amazon

      Publish in less than 5 minutes and your book will appear in Kindle stores worldwide within 24-48 hours.⁷

If you love to write you can easily self publish on Amazon, to produce and sell your books on Kindle and in hard copy. You’ll then be able to earn royalties on the sales while still keeping control of your work - and without the hassle of finding a traditional publisher.

It’s not just about producing novels, of course. You could consider self publishing a kids book, memoir, guide to learning a skill, self-help book, poetry, non-fiction book or even a graphic novel or comic.

You’ll find lots of information online about the pros and cons of self publishing, but it’s a simple and low investment way for many aspiring writers. It’s free to self publish, and you can get started in just a few minutes. However, you’ll need to take the time to research and assess if the potential financial return is worth the work.

Social Media

      Around 3,484 billion active social media users around the world - about 45% of the world's population.⁸

There are many different ways you can use social media to make money online. The good news is that in most cases you’ll not need to invest money - although you will usually need to spend time building a website or profile, and connecting with followers, before you can start to earn.

Consider these ideas:

  • Build a monetised blog or website, and use social media to draw in readers and build your following - increasing your profits over time, as more people visit your site.
  • Explore the YouTube partner programme if you want to make money from your videos.⁹
  • Create and pin content on Pinterest, sending readers to your website or blog where you can sell online courses and memberships.
  • Use social media to promote your off-line business. For example, if you offer business development services or coaching, use LinkedIn to connect with like minded people and prospective customers.

Instagram Business Ideas

      23 million users in the UK use Instagram¹⁰, with 60% of users logging-in daily.¹¹

Home of the influencer, we couldn’t move on without a word on specific Instagram online business ideas. As a very visual medium, Instagram lends itself well to businesses which use images to connect with customers.

If you’re a fitness instructor, you could build a great Instagram brand, and sell training programmes or nutrition plans via the platform. Great home cook? Flood your feed with photos of your creations, and go on to sell recipes, or work as an affiliate marketer to sell the products you use and love.

And of course, if you already have - or can see a way to create - a large following, you could look to become an influencer yourself. As an influencer you’ll work as a brand ambassador, connecting your followers with products, companies, services and brands you love - and earning a payment for promoting them. Breaking into this type of work takes time and effort - but can pay off for a small number of lucky people.


Reduce costs & increase convenience with TransferWise

International payments should be low-cost and fair - with TransferWise you’ll always get the real exchange rate, with no hidden fees.

This makes paying suppliers and buying inventory in over 70 countries effortless and affordable - as you can send money directly from your own debit card or bank, or make payments direct from your TransferWise account balance.

Oh, and did we mention? They’re also on average 19x cheaper than PayPal.

Receive money from clients for zero fees to your free UK, Eurozone, Australian, New Zealand, and US account details. Hold it in your account in over 40 currencies, for future payments or to move into your bank later.

And because its is designed for ecommerce entrepreneurs, freelancers and small business owners, you’ll find time saving perks too, such as Xero accounting integration.

Create your free account & do business without borders.

Still not sure? Find out more.


Deciding what business you want to launch, will largely depend on what you want to achieve and what problems you want to solve. Figuring this out may take some work - but once you crack it, the possibilities are endless. Take TransferWise for example, they started as an online business idea to solve a real problem - the inefficiency and expense of sending money internationally.

Online business opens up the possibilities to take your operations global - so you'll need a banking option that makes that easy and affordable. Check out TransferWise for Business to see how much you can save.

Sources used:

  1. Freelance Statistics from Free Train
  2. EMarketer Statistics on Ecommerce 2019
  3. Statistics for mobile app users 2019 from Build Fire
  4. App Success Stories: Slack
  5. Google AdSense
  6. Affiliate Marketing Statistics 2019 from Cyber Cash Worldwide
  7. Amazon: Self-Publish
  8. Avocado Social: social media statistics
  9. YouTube Partnerships
  10. Brand Watch: Instagram statistics
  11. UK Instagram Users from Statista

Sources checked: 21-October 2019.


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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