Want to start a website but don’t know what to focus on? We’ve listed 7 website ideas (plus examples) with the biggest potential to earn you a side income.
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Lately, I find myself wondering what to do with all my extra downtime during quarantine.
Should I finish the Google Sheets course I signed up for a month ago? Or brush up on my French? Or maybe…I should start a new website.
I’m leaning towards the last option because… well, the first two fill me with dread. Sorry, Duolingo owl. Maybe next time.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been itching to start a website – the only problem is, you don’t know what to focus on. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place.
Here at AppSumo, we’ve compiled 7 website ideas that have the biggest potential to earn you a side income:
Website Idea #1. Affiliates
Affiliate marketing is promotion on steroids.
Each time you promote a brand’s products or services, you earn a commission. You can do this on your website, YouTube channel, social media, and even on your podcast.
For the purpose of this guide, we’ll focus on websites.
Affiliate marketing works best when your website boasts a large following and high targeted traffic. The results become exponential when you partner with an affiliate network.
Don’t believe me? Here’s proof.
Since joining CJ Affiliate’s Content Certification program, her commissions increased by 191%. Here’s a blog post that shows her collaborating with Nordstrom, a major fashion brand and client of CJ Affiliate.
Source: Jo-Lynne Shane
Not much of a fashionista?
There are plenty of niches worth exploring – like beauty.
With the closure of nail salons, online sales of nail polish and gel remover kits are on the rise. You can create a beauty website and collaborate with brands to teach readers how to care for their nails at home.
Shifting gears, you can also jump into the realm of finance.
We’re paying more attention to our financial habits in this new normal we’re living in. So why not start a personal finance website? You can collaborate with financial companies to educate readers on how to save money and build wealth.
See how Riley Adams, blogger of Young And The Invested (a finance website with over 9,000 organic monthly traffic), promoted PocketSmith in a blog post. He earns 20-30% in commissions whenever a reader signs up for the financial app.
Source: Young And The Invested
Tip: Running an affiliate website (or any website, really…) is a lot of work. If you ever find yourself burned out or wanting to free up your time on another passion project, it may be time to sell it on a website broker marketplace.
Do a quick scroll on Empire Flippers, and you’ll notice affiliate websites are in demand.
Source: Empire Flippers
Website Idea #2. Online Learning
People are making the most of their extra downtime.
They’re diving back into the hobbies they once loved and picking up new skills. Udemy alone has seen a 425% increase in its online course enrollments.
Want to get a slice of the pie and help these learners level up their future? Here are a couple of ideas.
Set up an online membership site. Make it a one-stop destination for members to ask questions and build meaningful relationships with like-minded people.
Traffic Think Tank is a private-membership SEO community for marketers. It offers many exclusive perks: Live Q&As, expert-led webinars, SEO training – you name it.
After less than a year of inception, it generated $400K of annual recurring revenue.
Source: Traffic Think Tank
Alternatively, create an online teaching marketplace and partner with top practitioners to create bite-sized courses.
Tip: If you’re wondering what classes to offer, focus on essential skills that help people scale and expand their career opportunities.
Here’s what Udemy is seeing in its enrollment growth by topic.
That’s what Copyhackers does.
The copywriting agency promotes its courses on its website, and hosts the content on Thinkific.
When students click the login button on the top right corner, they’re immediately directed to the Thinkific login page.
Tip: Working on a small budget? Start with a simple website to promote your online course. Then create a Facebook group and upload your course content directly there. Just make sure your group is set to private, so non-members won’t be able to access them.
Website Idea #3. Freelance
Know how to help businesses make more money? Your surest bet is to start freelancing.
In the US, freelancers contribute nearly $1 trillion to the economy — yep, that’s how massive it is.
Truth is, you don’t need a website to promote your freelance services. Sometimes, a LinkedIn profile and an email address will suffice.
But a proper digital home doesn’t hurt. In fact, it can even create a stronger impression on prospective customers. Copywriter Michal Eisikowitz’s website is living proof.
Source: Michal Eisikowitz
So… what kind of freelancing business should you start?
If you have a knack for managing multiple tasks without breaking a sweat, you could start as a virtual assistant (VA). As a VA, you’ll help clients schedule important meetings and answer questions from their customers.
If you write well and possess the marketing know-how, you might want to work as a content writer. You’ll write valuable blog posts and ebooks to help clients rank in search and acquire quality leads.
Do you have an eagle eye for details? Love all things grammar? How about starting a new business as an editor?
Autumn Tompkins launched The Grumpy Grammarian to offer editing services, as well as a three-month apprenticeship to help writers become exceptional copyeditors.
Source: The Grumpy Grammarian
Tip: As you work with clients, be sure to invest time to build your community. Once you’ve built an audience, consider selling products to earn some passive income.
These products can be digital or physical. Autumn, in our earlier example above, wrote a book on copywriting and promoted it on Amazon.
There’s also another upside to selling products: You establish yourself as an authority in your industry.
Jen Havice, a copywriter who specializes in customer research, wrote a book on message mining. After she listed it on Amazon, two customers bought it and ended up becoming paid clients.
There’s a lot of work that goes into running a successful business. Creating a website to promote your freelance services is just the beginning.
Want to explore what it takes to succeed as a freelancer? Learn all the nuts and bolts here:
- The Freelancer’s Guide to Surviving An Apocalypse
- Avoid These 11 Freelancer Mistakes
- How to Double Your Freelancing Business
Website Idea #4. Job Boards
Almost 40 million Americans lost their jobs due to COVID-19.
Here’s where you come in: Launch a job board to reach these job seekers and help them take back control of their lives.
Elementor did precisely this. It set up a discovery network for users to boost their online presence, find new clients, and collaborate on projects with their peers.
(Note: This is a subdomain of Elementor’s existing website, but you get the idea!)
Tip: Whichever industry or niche your job board focuses on, offer value-added perks to your users — this means both the employer and job seeker.
Corey Haines, Head of Growth at Baremetrics, does this well. He launched his job board side project, Hey Marketers, to highlight the best marketing jobs in tech, SaaS, and eCommerce.
Source: Hey Marketers
What makes Hey Marketers different is that it operates under a pay-what-you-want model. Employers can choose how much they want to pay for a job listing. (Tip: Do this if you’re looking for feedback on how to price your job ads.)
The job board even provides fill-in-the-blank job description templates, so employers don’t have to think about what to write. All they need to do is copy, paste, and tweak as they see fit.
Source: Hey Marketers
Hey Marketers also provides numerous perks for job seekers. Its resource library shows helpful marketing books, podcasts, websites, events, and hiring guidelines from top companies.
Source: Hey Marketers
How do you make money off a job board besides charging for job postings?
There are a handful of ways.
The first is through affiliate marketing. Take a look at how Hey Marketers promotes marketing-focused products and services on the sidebar of its website:
Source: Hey Marketers
Second, you can drive targeted traffic to your other businesses. Corey does this by linking his paid marketing course in the top navigation menu:
Source: Hey Marketers
Don’t be shy about cross-promoting your other websites in your job board.
Website Idea #5. Dropshipping
Ready to dip your toes into the world of eCommerce?
With dropshipping, you can sell without going through the pains of packing and shipping to customers. This saves huge chunks of time, as you’re able to test and see which types of products bring you the biggest sales.
But what should you sell?
Here’s a pro tip: Focus on products that are growing due to the recent pandemic — that way, the number of hours you put in on your dropshipping store will be effective and well spent.
For instance, sell work desks and executive chairs. These days, people are looking to upgrade their temporary workspace at home. At Martin Furniture, office furniture sales have gone up by 80-90% in April alone.
Source: Martin Furniture
Leaving the office space for a sec, you can also consider selling board games and jigsaw puzzles.
People are sheltering in place. Indoor activities and games, which are currently in hot demand, will no doubt keep them
Worried about becoming a couch potato? So are millions of others. Sell fitness equipment to beat those home workout blues (and try our very own home workout).
Gym closures aren’t stopping people from staying in shape. In fact, some are even upping the frequency of their workouts — with sales rising by 170%.
Racking your brain on what else you can sell? Check out Stackline’s report on the fastest-growing categories in eCommerce.
After you figure out your niche, check out these helpful guides on the Sumo blog. By the time you finish reading them, you’ll learn how to find new customers and increase sales:
- 17 Ecommerce Marketing Strategies (For Stores On A Shoestring Budget)
- 12 Simple Ecommerce Strategies (Testing Framework Included)
- 5 Ecommerce Success Stories [Real-World Case Studies]
Website Idea #6. Fan Clubs
No one comes close to you, the diehard fan… So why not bring your love to the next level and start a fan club?
If you love TV shows, create a one-stop digital community for fans to share outrageous theories and thrilling episodes that keep them on the edge of their seat.
Watchers on the Wall is a fan club that brings together fans of Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire. It was started by a group of writers and fandom contributors.
Source: Watchers On The Wall
If you play sports or you’re in a band, start a fan club to earn extra income. You can do this with affiliate ads and use your earnings to create custom merch and organize events for supporters.
Tip: Encourage fans to support your website with monthly donations using PayPal’s donate button. If you want to create exclusive content (e.g. insider posts, behind-the-scenes) for paying members only, use a membership platform like Patreon or its many alternatives.
Website Idea #7. Tools
Tools like calculators and quizzes make effective interactive content — so much so that they generate conversions up to 70%.
Conversions aside, these interactive tools are also another great way to drive targeted traffic to your website.
But don’t just take my word for it. Let’s look at an example that illustrates this.
How Much To Make An App is a tool built by a digital product studio called Z1. It calculates how much it costs to make an app based on specific needs.
Source: How Much To Make An App
Let’s start with the name and URL structure of the tool: “How Much to Make an App.”
To the untrained eye, it looks like a boring, unoriginal name.
To the marketer, it’s a lead machine.
You see, “how much to make an app“ is a highly specific search phrase used by searchers with high purchase intent.
In other words, they’re Z1’s target customers.
At the time of this point, this tool occupies the top spot, which creates a massive opportunity for Z1.
According to a study by Backlinko, the first organic result attracts an average CTR of 31.7% — imagine the number of quality clicks Z1 gets just by ranking first.
There’s more to why How Much To Make An App is a success.
After users complete the questions, the tool calculates an estimated cost:
Source: How Much To Make An App
Let’s break it down why it works:
- Adds value: The estimated cost answers the searcher’s biggest question. It solves a pain point in a sleek way.
- Attracts visitors: Notice the social element up there? It encourages searchers to share their results on social media and spread the word about the tool. That’s free marketing!
- Increases visibility: The backlink to Z1’s website at the bottom increases its ranking position on search engines.
- Acquires leads: Searchers move from the problem aware stage to solution aware stage after completing the quiz. It’s likely they’ll wonder about Z1’s services and contact them for further questions.
Tip: An alternative to the contact form is an email opt-in. That way, you can build your email list and nurture these new subscribers with helpful content. Test out different options to see which works best for you.
To sum it up, if you’re looking to target potential customers with high buying intent and boost awareness of your brand, build a tool.
It just might turn out to be your powerful sales machine.
What Website Will You Launch Today?
Some websites are poised to profit even in the face of a pandemic. Others just… aren’t.
We hope this guide has helped you hone in on the best ideas for your new website.
After you build your website from the ground up, play around with how you want to promote it.
When you’re ready to level up, browse the AppSumo’s directory for tools to streamline your process. We’ve got everything you need to optimize your website for success.
Good luck, Sumo-lings!