Online Business Models You Need To Know About

In my previous article about how to monetize a blog, a reader asked me what online business models I suggested instead of advertising.

So in today’s video I’ll be outlining the top 6 online business models that are ideal for an individual or small business person.

The reason I’m not including advertising as an online business model is that it’s not the most effective when you’re just starting out.

Recommending 6 Online Business Models

An important point to note here is that you don’t have to pick just one. Once you’ve got one of these online business models in place you can add on another. For example if you start out with affiliate marketing, you can info products of your own down the line.

The Service Online Business Model

Offering a service is the fastest way to get started online. You don’t need to have a big email list or even a web site to kickstart a service business. It obviously helps to start a web site and build a list to keep the pipeline filled with potential clients.

However, you can start your service business by approaching people you know could use your skills and just being your best self. One caveat to the service model is that it keeps you in an exchange of time for money, so once you reach your capacity, that’s it. You then need to look to one of the other models to scale your business.

Selling Physical Products

Selling physical products is one of the mainstays of commerce. Whether you create your own products because you’re a crafty type, or you have access to a company who will drop-ship products for you… selling physical products is one way to start a business online, and my friend Steve knows a lot about this type of business.

You can also tap into a network of buyers through sites like Etsy or eBay.

Info Products: One of the Most Popular Online Business Models

Information products are an excellent way to leverage your time and help many people by creating your product once and selling it over and over.

It’s relatively easy to create and deliver an info product, which means it gives you a high return on investment.

Anyone can turn their expertise into an information product. You don’t need to create a boring experience either, and an info product can range from a simple ebook to a complex members area where participants can interact with each other and the material.

Teaching and training programs focused on specific problems are worth investing in, and are part of the fastest growing shift in the economy towards buying content.

If you want to know more about how to create and sell your own information products, check out my free webinar!

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is where you promote or recommend a product, service, or info product and you get a percentage of any sales that are made from your recommendations.

The reward can be as little as a few cents or as much as thousands of dollars per sale. The best way to make use of affiliate promotions is to build a community of people passionate about a certain topic, and to connect them with relevant offers they would love.

The great thing about the affiliate online business models is that you can get started while you build your business, since it takes very little time or money to promote.

Creating Software

Software is one of the main online business models, and we can look at big companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter for examples. But having a software business doesn’t mean you need to create a start up, you can create software that runs on other platforms and do well too.

You can sell iPhone/iPad apps, desktop applications, or software as a service. You can also hire developers to create the software for you, if you have the vision for it.

The Online Membership Business Model

The membership model has gotten a lot of press for being one of the most lucrative online business models. You can create a membership that includes monthly recurring payments for access to new material, software, coaching, etc.

While creating membership sites, I’d caution you to assess how many people will be joining. The nature of such sites is to have some people drop off over time, so the way to make your membership work is to create something that becomes an integral part of someone’s life. Think about the recurring payments you make month after month: your internet, your cellphone, your rent, etc.

You can also create a yearly membership for access to deals or members-only privileges, like Goddess Leonie’s Goddess Circle.

So what’ll it be?

I hope you enjoyed this quick breakdown of the top 6 online business models I recommend. I’m putting on a webinar all about creating info products that sell themselves, and delivering them (without that tech-headache!), so join me here.

Let me know what online business models you’re currently focusing on, and if there are any others you think are worth mentioning below!


  1. RicardoBueno on September 12, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    I went from selling one-on-one coaching and web design to the subscription based model. My current project is a subscription model in the real estate niche. It’s great because I feel like I can scale, whereas with webinars, I was always finding ways to (try) and do more. But working one-on-one with people, well, it just isn’t very scalable.

  2. NathLussier on September 13, 2011 at 6:50 am

    @RicardoBueno Hey Ricardo! Thanks so much for sharing what’s worked for you, and how you’re scaling your business using these different business models. I love it. :)

  3. TrishB on September 21, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Another informative and easy-to-understand post.

    With a transcript, too.

    Pretty great, Nathalie.

  4. Jessica on April 27, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    Nathalie, do you have a more updated version of this post on your site somewhere?

    • Nathalie Lussier on April 27, 2016 at 4:20 pm

      Hey Jessica – I don’t unfortunately, but the good news is that many of the same online business models are still in effect! :)