Dateline: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Our target audience here at Nomad Capitalist includes high-income entrepreneurs and other high-net-worth individuals who wish to optimize their taxes, emigrate abroad, and live life on their own terms.
As demographics go, it’s a very select audience.
The bulk of the people who interact with us online are not likely to be in that group… currently. But even if you’re not a high-net-worth individual, just by being on this site, we know that you are also in a select club.
Very few people in the general population are financially literate, and even fewer of them spend their free time actively improving that knowledge base. So, it is very possible that you will join the ranks of the wealthy in the future with enough time and effort.
In the past 12 years of running Nomad Capitalist, we’ve helped hundreds of high-net-worth individuals. Despite their different nationalities, ethnicities, and upbringing, they often shared similar life paths and attitudes.
Today, I want to invite you to walk down memory lane with me to take stock of the location independent business ideas that many of them had.
Here’s a list of ten digital business ideas you could do right now to make money online fast in order to one day be in a position to knock on our door for help to design your ideal life.
There are two sorts of freelancers: one is your broke acquaintance who just says that they’re a freelancer to get over the social awkwardness of saying that they’re unemployed, and then there are the ones who are actually successful.
This second category doesn’t just take odd jobs on occasion. Instead, they establish connections with the networks of people they’ve built over the years.
I refer to this type of freelancer as “Fractional C-Suite”, given that they’re high-tier professionals who are in demand but their specific skills are only needed for a set amount of hours per week, which means that they’re fractionally employed by multiple companies.
The best freelance business ideas tend to be in accountancy, management, HR, etc.
More often than not, you can secure a greater salary than if you were traditionally employed, as you are the one in control of how much free time you’re willing to give yourself.
The trick though, is that you always need to ask yourself how to be a more integral part of the businesses you work for, rather than ad hoc projects.
2. Digital Products/Courses
If managed correctly, this is the ultimate passive income method. Digital products and courses need only be produced once, and they can be scaled infinitely. They have a low cost of entry with no upper ceiling.
The easiest way to do a course is via a site like Udemy, but where I’ve seen most people earn money is via their own website. In this way, you don’t have to give anyone a cut.
You do need to bear in mind though that your main expense, beyond the website infrastructure, will be marketing. As you will need to push people in the appropriate direction enough to have them be willing to spend several hundred dollars for a course.
We can personally attest to the fact that this is a very lucrative business model, as we used to have courses as well. However, I decided to move away from them because I got frustrated that nobody ever took action with our information.
To a certain extent, it felt like people were paying us to feel productive, rather than actually helping them out on their journey.
E-commerce includes any commercial transactions conducted electronically on the Internet in which you’re selling products.
Given that you are likely to be shipping products over international lines, you do require some tax planning beforehand. We’re not going to get into the specifics of this now, but just know it’s not just as easy as setting up your site and sending products in the mail.
Over the years, the landscape has changed. Before, the most prominent e-commerce business I used to see was dropshipping. It became popular as an idea to make money online fast.
For those not in the know, dropshipping is when you sell a product via an online store, like a personalized Shopify site, but you neither control the production, inventory, or distribution thereof. Typically, people would find interesting Chinese items on Alibaba and sell them to Americans at a hefty markup.
This was a smart idea, as you would just order items whenever someone had bought them. You had no real risk whatsoever.
The problem is that everyone else caught on to this idea and the dropshipping space got saturated. Some people still turn a profit, but it’s far rarer now than it used to be a decade ago.
Nowadays, the clients I get from the e-commerce space have their own brands that they sell on their own websites and/or the Amazon Marketplace.
To do this successfully though, it takes an intense amount of work and you need to be able to wear a lot of hats – you need to build a brand, manufacture the product, care for the logistics and then improve it.
If you do it well though, it’s an easily scalable business model that can net you millions down the line in profit. That said, you might also eventually want to cash out of the business entirely. And if you run a profitable business, it might be worth a large fortune.
4. Amazon Publishers
If you’re planning on becoming the next bestselling author, I’d temper your enthusiasm a bit. There are certainly far more exceedingly profitable authors on Amazon, more so than with traditional publishing.
I have an author friend who is a very curious person by nature and he writes about one book per year. His backlog, alongside the new book per year, nets him several thousand dollars annually.
This is the exception rather than the rule though. I know this from personal experience with my own book – Nomad Capitalist. It does well, and it’s a nice source of passive income, but it’s not enough to live off of.
If you’re going to write what you’re passionate about, good luck to you, but seldom is it where the money is. This is why it is said in Amazon self-publishing circles that you must “write to market” to be profitable. In other words, know what the audience wants and cater to their whims.
Some have taken this advice to heart and made a business out of it.
As it stands, romance as a genre trumps every other niche. So, what smart entrepreneurs do is hire romance writers to pump out schlocky romance books, the type your mother is embarrassed to be caught reading. These writers get paid about a cent per word, and then, by the end of it, the publishers are singlehandedly running a cottage industry for lonely hearts and making a huge profit in the process.
5. App Development
Every single person with a smartphone (i.e., most people) uses apps on a daily basis and the number of phones is only increasing by the day. Unsurprisingly, the people who develop apps can make a very lucrative living out of it.
This isn’t one of those online business ideas you can easily start without some coding knowledge, though.
Most entrepreneurs in this space started building apps themselves and put up them on the Apple or Google Play stores. Only once they get some experience under their belt have the moved on to build a whole team (which is often based in India).
It’s a bit of a curious business model, as most users do not pay for most apps. But even if most of these apps are “free” they’re advertisement-supported, or user data gets collected and sold, etc. Hence you can make a large profit from them despite not monetizing them directly.
6. Affiliate Marketing
In case you’re not familiar with the concept, affiliate marketing is a commission people receive when their audience is directed to a certain site or service via a link that they posted.
From personal experience, most of the people in this space tend to be in the adult-only or casino industry, which frankly, is very difficult to help from an offshore and tax perspective.
More often than not, when offshore jurisdictions hear that you want to run some element of a sensitive business in their sphere of influence, they slam the door in your face. Nothing personal, they just don’t want to deal with the potential legal ramifications.
So, what I would suggest you do if you want to get into this space is to carve yourself a niche in something far less sensitive, like a health product. Amazon’s affiliate program is the most well known of the bunch.
The way you do it is to build blogs or social media presence where you can then direct people to the site of your choosing with an affiliate program to make money online.
Depending on the conversion rates of your site, you might look into paid or organic reach. Among one of our former clients, there was one who had 20 people working on SEO all day long.
The challenge in this line of business is that social media presences and customer tastes change very rapidly. It’s hard to keep the spotlight on what you want to highlight.
Having said all this, you do need to remember that there are FTC rules that surround affiliate marketing and disclosure that you are getting paid to share a link to a given site.
7. Build Software – SaaS
As you may have well noticed, in a good portion of these businesses, the key to profitability is scalability. Software is the ultimate scalable business as there are few to no costs from running the same bit of code on one machine or a million.
However, the problem some software companies have encountered over the years, is that your offering may work far too well. For example, people might not want to switch to the next version of a video editing software when the past year’s version works just fine.
So, what they started developing was the concept of SaaS – or Software as a Service – meaning that you don’t really own the software that you get from the company. What you received is a subscription to use the service for a given amount of time.
After the convened term has elapsed, you’re locked out of the program until you pay again. This business model ensures a monthly recurring revenue and allows for a broader spectrum of users to be able to afford it.
This alone has enough potential to generate multiple millions of dollars in recurring revenue, almost on autopilot.
But if you want to be able to charge recurring monthly subscriptions costing hundreds of dollars, then you need to go to the enterprise level.
Sure, it might not be glamorous, but oil companies, investment banks, or an FMCG business certainly have a need for very particular services and will pay handsomely to whoever can provide it to them.
This is one of the easier online business ideas to adapt for total location indepence, given that all the computing happens in the cloud and the only thing you really need is a high-speed internet connection and a laptop.
8. Service Business
A service business is any type of agency that helps its clientele to perform some job. It can be any number of things like helping people run Facebook ads, SEO, business writing, etc.
I draw a distinction between service businesses and freelancing, even though there may be a lot of overlap, because you can scale this up more. Freelancing is a one-person show, whereas an agency can scale upwards with a team.
Not only that but having a team is more tax optimizable.
In either case, if there are problems to be solved then there are business opportunities. The more pressing the problem, the higher the price you can charge.
9. Coaching and Consulting
Let’s assume that you have some bit of knowledge that most people don’t possess and they are interested in learning about this. Well, in that case, you can put your insights to good use!
This is partly what we do here at Nomad Capitalist. I’m an online business consultant – we advise people with their offshore-related questions and we help simplify the international tax code.
The interesting proposition of this business is that it has good defences against the competition as, by its very nature, it requires very niche proficiency and most of the people that have that expertise are not interested in creating an online business.
Furthermore, it can be done from anywhere and doesn’t particularly require a footprint in any specific country. It’s the ultimate option for a location independent entrepreneur.
You can learn how to start a consulting business overseas with our extensive guide on the topic.
If you’re passionate about finances and you’re a very analytical person, then trading currencies, stocks, cryptocurrencies and the like is for you.
Be warned though that most people who embark down this specific path are not cut out for it.
You really have to be able to know how the markets behave as well as all the interrelated variables – any minor fluctuation might offset your positions.
But unless we’re talking about millions of dollars per position, this is inherently a scalable business model. It doesn’t matter whether you’re moving one or a hundred of an asset – the margin still stays the same.
Turn Online Business Ideas Into Success
Perhaps the most important thing to consider with all these online business ideas is that you don’t want to be in a position where you are paid by the hour. That is what the typical digital nomad business does, and those usually lose money.
You want to be paid by results, and hopefully, these results are scalable without diminishing returns – those are the ultimate digital business opportunities.
That is the key to wealth: you want to be in a position where you are recompensed for the value that you bring to society. That is much easier to scale with digital businesses.
If you already have a successful online business, feel free to share your insights in the comments.
And if you are ready to optimize your online business by going overseas and setting up a holistic offshore plan for both yourself and your company, feel free to reach out to our team.