There are many reasons someone may want to start a remote business or move from a traditional brick-and-mortar business to a virtual one. It may be because they have an innovative idea, because they’ve identified a new opportunity, or out of necessity — such as when the COVID-19 pandemic forced lockdowns across the world.
And while one in five entrepreneurs who started businesses during the pandemic had never considered the idea before, the number of people working remotely grew by 44% in the five years before it started. When so many people are already working remotely, it can be challenging to find a profitable online business idea that doesn’t feel like it’s been done a thousand times before.
If you’re thinking about starting a remote business, this article is a great place to start!
What is a Remote Business?
Before we start discussing the benefits and challenges of remote working, as well as some great ideas for you to consider, it is important that you understand what remote businesses are. A fully remote business is one that uses a virtual business setup. This means that it has no headquarters or physical offices in a central location.
Employees of a remote business can work from home, a café, libraries, parks, co-working spaces, or anywhere with a stable internet connection. This is so that they can use their chosen device, most often a laptop, to access virtual meeting platforms, digital workspaces, and other remote collaboration tools.
The Benefits of Starting a Remote Business
It can be challenging to get a new company up and running, especially if you opt for a remote working policy. But once you overcome those obstacles, there are a lot of benefits to owning a remote business, which include:
Reduced expenses and faster business growth
The most obvious benefit of a remote business is the potential cost savings that come from not needing office space for your employees. You save on real estate or rent expenses, office furniture, utilities, and other operating expenses related to running an office. With lower overheads, business owners have more capital to reinvest in their company.
Because flexibility is built into the remote working model, employees miss fewer days as they can perform many tasks right from home — even when they may be feeling unwell. With less absenteeism, your business productivity is bound to increase. But a survey by ConnectSolutions discovered that productivity increased by as much as 77% when employees worked remotely for various reasons.
Larger talent pool
Businesses that use a remote business model are not restricted by the geographical location of potential employees. They can hire the talent that is the best fit for the role, regardless of where in the world that person may live.
Higher employee retention and satisfaction
The flexibility of remote working makes it a lot easier for employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance, even while managing to be more productive. Workers are able to choose their work environment, adjust their working hours as needed and save on commuting time. This leads to higher employee morale, job satisfaction, and higher employee retention.
Challenges That Remote Businesses Face
The process of starting a remote business involves a lot of steps, and there are also several challenges you need to consider before you go ahead with establishing an online company.
The greatest risk that comes with operating a remote business is the storing, accessing, and sharing of data. Employees are working on personal devices, using their home networks where they don’t employ enterprise-level security. Sometimes they’ll even use unsecured public networks, or their devices can get lost or stolen.
A security breach can be costly, and remote business owners will need to invest in software specially designed with secure remote work in mind.
A remote business depends on technology. From internet instability and power outages to system failures and devices that experience compatibility issues with virtual platforms — these are all risks your employees may experience — there’s no way to avoid them. You will need to ensure you have backup plans in place to deal with things like this when they do happen.
At the core of every successful remote business is effective communication. Adjusting to virtual meetings from face-to-face meetings may take some time. Casual communication between employees during office interactions can also drive innovation and creativity. You’ll need to invest in business communication software like Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, Slack, and others to ensure proper communication.
This software can also be used for casual chat sessions, video check-ins, online training, and more.
While productivity has been known to increase with remote workers, it can fluctuate due to demotivation, lack of supervision, and depression caused by extended solitude. Managers or business owners will need to ensure they have tools to stay in regular contact with their remote employees, provide feedback, and keep track of their performance and workflow.
40 Top Remote Business Ideas
Ideas for service-based businesses
Remote service-based businesses involve providing a service to customers or clients over the internet or through other virtual means. This type of business model involves offering a particular expertise or skill to customers rather than a physical product. Here are ten ideas for service-based businesses you should consider:
Virtual assistance or concierge services. Virtual assistance or concierge services involve providing assistance with tasks such as scheduling, travel arrangements, and personal errands to busy professionals.
Remote customer service or support. Remote customer service or support involves providing assistance to customers or clients who have questions or issues with products or services. This can include answering phone calls, responding to emails, and troubleshooting technical problems.
Online tutoring or education services. Online tutoring or education services involve providing one-on-one or group instruction to students over the internet. This can include academic subjects, test preparation, or specialized skills training.
Social media management or digital marketing services. Social media management or digital marketing services involve helping businesses and individuals grow their online presence through social media platforms and other digital channels. This can include creating and scheduling posts, running advertising campaigns, and analyzing performance data.
Website design or development services. Website design or development services involve creating and building websites for businesses or individuals. This can include designing the layout and user experience, as well as programming the site and integrating features such as e-commerce functionality.
Graphic design or creative services. Graphic design or creative services involve creating visual materials such as logos, brochures, and marketing materials for businesses or individuals.
Writing, editing, or translation services. Writing, editing, or translation services involve creating or improving written content for businesses or individuals. This can include copywriting, editing, proofreading, and translation from one language to another.
Legal or financial consulting services. Legal or financial consulting services involve providing guidance and support to businesses or individuals on matters such as contracts, regulations, and investments.
Virtual event planning or management services. Virtual event planning or management services involve planning and coordinating events such as conferences, meetings, or workshops that take place online. This can include tasks such as scheduling speakers, managing registration, and facilitating communication among attendees.
Health or wellness coaching services. Health or wellness coaching services involve providing personalized guidance and support to individuals to help them improve their health and well-being. This can include areas such as nutrition, exercise, stress management, and overall lifestyle habits.
Ideas for product-based businesses
Product-based businesses involve selling physical goods or products to customers over the internet or through other virtual means. This type of business model involves offering a tangible product to customers rather than a service. Here are some examples of product-based businesses:
E-commerce. E-commerce or online retail involves selling a variety of products through an online store. This can include physical goods, such as clothing, electronics, or home goods, as well as digital products, such as music, ebooks, or software.
Subscription-based services or products. Subscription-based services or products involve offering customers a recurring service or product, such as monthly boxes of snacks, beauty products, or artisanal goods.
Digital products. Digital products, such as ebooks, courses, or software, involve creating and selling products that can be downloaded or accessed online.
Art or handmade products. Art or handmade products involve creating and selling unique, handcrafted items such as jewelry, pottery, or clothing.
Print-on-demand products. Print-on-demand products, such as t-shirts or mugs, involve creating custom products that are printed and shipped on demand when an order is placed.
Dropshipping or wholesale products. Dropshipping or wholesale products involve sourcing products from manufacturers or wholesalers and selling them to customers without the need to manage inventory or fulfillment.
Niche or specialized products. Niche or specialized products involve focusing on a particular type of product, such as fitness or wellness products, and building a business around it.
Natural or organic products. Natural or organic products involve offering products made with natural or organic ingredients, such as skin care, food, or household goods.
Vintage or secondhand products. Vintage or secondhand products involve selling unique, one-of-a-kind items that are no longer in production, such as clothing, furniture, or collectibles.
Eco-friendly or sustainable products. Eco-friendly or sustainable products involve offering products that are made with environmentally friendly materials or practices, such as biodegradable packaging, recycled materials, or energy-efficient products.
Ideas for consulting or coaching businesses
Consulting or coaching businesses involve providing guidance and support to clients or customers over the internet or through other virtual means. This type of business model involves offering expertise or advice to clients in order to help them achieve specific goals or objectives. Some examples of consulting or coaching services include:
Business or executive coaching. Business or executive coaching involves providing guidance and support to professionals to help them improve their leadership skills and achieve their business goals. This can include areas such as strategic planning, communication, team building, and time management.
Career coaching or job search services. Career coaching or job search services involve helping individuals navigate the job market and find fulfilling careers. This can include resume and cover letter writing, job search strategies, and interviewing skills.
Life coaching or personal development services. Life coaching or personal development services involve working with clients to identify and achieve their personal and professional goals. This can include areas such as goal setting, time management, and personal growth.
Health and wellness coaching. Health and wellness coaching involves helping individuals improve their overall health and well-being through personalized guidance and support. This can include areas such as nutrition, exercise, stress management, and overall lifestyle habits.
Financial planning or consulting services. Financial planning or consulting involves helping individuals and businesses manage their finances and achieve their financial goals. This can include areas such as budgeting, saving, investing, and debt management.
Legal or compliance consulting services. Legal or compliance consulting involves providing guidance and support to businesses and organizations to ensure they are compliant with laws and regulations. This can include areas such as contracts, employment law, and data privacy.
Technology or digital strategy consulting. Technology or digital strategy consulting involves helping businesses and organizations develop and implement effective plans for using technology to achieve their goals. This can include areas such as website development, social media strategy, and data analysis.
Sales or marketing consulting services. Sales or marketing consulting involves providing guidance and support to businesses and organizations to help them increase their sales and improve their marketing efforts. This can include areas such as market research, advertising, and customer relationship management.
HR or talent management consulting. HR or talent management consulting involves assisting businesses and organizations with recruitment, retention, and employee development. This can include areas such as employee training, performance management, and succession planning.
Environmental or sustainability consulting services. Environmental or sustainability consulting involves helping businesses and organizations become more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint. This can include areas such as energy efficiency, waste reduction, and supply chain management.
Ideas for creative or digital businesses
Creative or digital businesses involve creating and producing creative or digital content for clients or customers over the internet or through other virtual means. These businesses may work with a variety of clients, including businesses, individuals, or organizations, and can serve a global customer base. The use of technology and the internet allows these businesses to operate remotely and flexibly without the need for a physical storefront or office. Here are ten ideas for creative or digital businesses:
Video production or editing services. Video production or editing services involve creating and editing video content for businesses or individuals. This can include tasks such as filming, editing, and adding special effects.
Music or audio production services. Music or audio production services involve creating and producing music or audio content for businesses or individuals. This can include tasks such as recording, mixing, and mastering.
Photography or visual design services. Photography or visual design services involve creating visually appealing images or designs for businesses or individuals. This can include tasks such as taking photographs, creating graphics, and designing logos.
Writing, editing, or publishing services. Writing, editing, or publishing services involve creating or improving written content for businesses or individuals. This can include copywriting, editing, proofreading, and publishing books or other written materials.
Gaming or app development. Gaming or app development involves creating games or apps for mobile devices or computers. This can include tasks such as designing gameplay mechanics, programming, and testing.
Virtual or augmented reality services. Virtual or augmented reality services involve creating immersive experiences that can be accessed through technology such as VR headsets or AR apps.
Animation or motion graphics services. Animation or motion graphics services involve creating animated or interactive visuals for businesses or individuals. This can include tasks such as creating character designs, animating movements, and adding special effects.
Podcasting or audio content creation. Podcasting or audio content creation involves creating and producing audio content such as podcasts, audiobooks, or music.
Web design or development services. Web design or development services involve creating and building websites for businesses or individuals. This can include tasks such as designing the layout and user experience, as well as programming the site, and integrating features such as e-commerce functionality.
Social media or influencer marketing services. Social media or influencer marketing services involve helping businesses and individuals grow their online presence through social media platforms and other digital channels. This can include tasks such as creating and scheduling posts, running advertising campaigns, and analyzing performance data.
How to Turn Your Idea Into Reality
Now that you have an idea of some of the challenges and benefits of starting a remote business, it is time to talk about what is involved in getting your remote business off the ground.
Developing a business plan and identifying your target market
Once you’ve settled on what goods or services your online business will offer, you need to put together a business plan. This is so you have a clear direction for your business and can make decisions that align with your objectives. One of these should be identifying the ideal target market for your products or services, so your business is primed for success from the beginning.
Building a team and finding the right technology and tools
As we’ve already said, technology is the very core of any remote business. There are dozens of different tools available to remote businesses of all shapes and sizes, each with different pros and cons. At the same time, you need employees with the right skills for your chosen business and ones you can trust despite them possibly being across the world.
Creating a website and marketing your business
We are officially in the digital age, with hybrid workplaces and online businesses becoming the new norm. Your business needs to be on the internet if you want to succeed today, but the internet is worldwide. You need to make sure your target audience can find your business using Google and other search engines, which means you need to employ digital marketing and SEO strategies.
Overcoming common challenges and obstacles when starting a remote business
We’ve already described some of the challenges that you may face with a remote business. Part of your business plan needs to include policies for dealing with security breaches, managing remote employees, your marketing strategy, internal communications, collaborating across time zones and locations, and any other obstacles you may encounter.
The Future of Remote Business and the Opportunities It Presents
A decade ago, remote work was pretty rare and, most often, a special arrangement to accommodate workers with special circumstances. But studies have shown that remote work is here to stay.
The growing trend of remote work and the potential for remote businesses
What we learned during the pandemic is that there are certain jobs that can’t be done remotely. But as innovation pushes the boundaries of what technology can do, we are discovering just how much potential there is for remote businesses. From teaching and religious services to admin tasks and entirely online-based businesses, there are very few limits to the possibilities that remote work can offer.
The importance of innovation and adaptability in starting and running a successful remote business
It is true that online businesses and remote work have exploded in the last few years, and many of the most common remote business ideas are saturated with newcomers to the scene. This means that it is essential to be as creative as possible with your virtual business if you want it to succeed.
As technology advances and the world changes to accommodate it, you are going to need to learn to adapt. This will include adjusting SEO strategies to accommodate Google’s updates to their search algorithms, incorporating changing social media into your marketing efforts, staying updated with the latest remote working software and adapting those tools to your business, and more.
Between the immersion of artificial intelligence in our daily work lives and a business market where we’re competing with businesses in our neighborhood as well as businesses on the other side of the world — adaptability and innovation are vital to achieving any form of success for your remote business.
Developing your business's adaptability allows you to make small, strategic shifts as dynamics change and your remote business face certain inevitable challenges.