AmazonBlogBusiness

6 Online Business Ideas for Teenagers

I'm a jaded old man in his thirties as I'm writing this, but since I was thirteen, I've been starting businesses online. I'm one of those people who has never had a “real job”— this is not necessarily something to brag about because it's a sign of my unemployability more than anything else! 

In this article, I will give you some practical advice for making money online and what types of businesses to start.

 

Start Your Business Now If You Don't Want a Real Job When You're Older

I'll give you some legitimate online business ideas, but let me give you some dad advice first. Remember how I said I've never had a real job in my life? That's because I started businesses when I was younger, and I had little to lose and little to no bills.

Right now, you're probably content making any money online. You'll probably be thrilled to make $500 to $1,000 a month, and it's actually relatively simple to make that type of money pretty quickly. Eventually, that $500/month will grow into $5,000/month and then maybe even more. But it will take time. Realistically, it could be a year or two, or it could be five or six years. 

When you get older (and by older, I mean in your twenties) you can't wait years to make $5,000/month. You have a car loan to pay. You have rent. You have a girlfriend to take out on dates. What will happen? You will turn out like the vast majority of the world and never start a business.

The earlier you start your business, the less likely it will be for you ever to need to work a job when you get older.

Can You Start a Business as a Teenager?

Opening a business (or an LLC, if you're American) can get a little tricky as a teenager. Many businesses register in a state they don't live in for a variety of reasons. Some states require you to be 18, while others are more teenager-friendly, such as Delaware.

Here's the truth: I was making money online for years as a teenager before ever registering an official business.

Many of the companies that will pay you money online don't require a business and/or aren't going to check your age. For the ones that did check my age, I'd often make a typo and accidentally make my birth year a few years before it was. 

Ideally, you have a supportive parent or relative who will help you open the necessary accounts (such as an Amazon Seller account) that do have an age requirement.

Once my first business started taking off, I then registered a real company and started getting things formalized. 

Take note that this isn't official business advice. The official advice that won't get me in trouble is to register a business, do everything totally by the books, and cross every t and dot every itwiceMy personal experience is that I skipped all that until I had a business with real revenue. 

What Businesses Can You Start as a Teenager?

My first business as a teenager was selling pirated software where people had to click banner ads to get access to the downloads. My greatest accomplishment was receiving a $1,000 cheque (before the dot com bubble crash). This was back in the 90s, and I definitely do not recommend you do this now. 

Currently, I'd suggest a few business models that work really well for teenagers looking to start an online business:

  • Import products from China and sell them online (through Amazon, eBay, etc.)
  • Sell custom-made goods through Etsy
  • Drop ship products and sell them online (through Shopify, Amazon, eBay, etc.) 
  • Start a website and get affiliate revenue through Amazon Associates or ads via Google Ads
  • Freelance work through a site like Upwork 

#1 Business Idea #1 for Teens – Buy Stuff Cheap from Walmart/Home Depot/etc. and Sell on Amazon

A lot of the ideas here are going to be around selling physical products online, and the easiest way to get started is by something called retail arbitrage. This is basically a fancy word for buying new products for cheap and selling them for high on Amazon.

Where do you get these products from? The most common way is by shopping at local stores like Walmart or Kmart for products with big discounts. We've all seen it before: all of a sudden, your local Home Depot is discounting leaf blowers at 40% or 50% off because they're overstocked. And while this might be a great deal for you, the rest of the country can't find deals like this. So what do you do? You buy that leaf blower and put it on Amazon for more money than you purchased it for.

Buying products for cheap from stores like Walmart and reselling them for more than what you paid is called retail arbitrage.

This strategy is relatively low risk as all you need to do is to download one of the Amazon Retail arbitrage apps, scan the barcode on one of these discounted products, and the app will tell you immediately how much you can sell it on Amazon for. Many people make tens of thousands of dollars a year or more doing this. The downside is that this strategy takes a lot of effort as you're going to be constantly looking for great deals in stores. Sometimes, you'll find a bunch of great deals. And other times, you'll go days or weeks without finding anything.

What your day-to-day jobs will be:

  • Going to local stores and looking for deals
  • Listing these items for sale on Amazon

Can non-Americans run this business? Not really.

How to Get Started now: Download an Amazon retail arbitrage app and start looking for deals at your local stores where the products sell for more money on Amazon.

Further Reading: How to do Amazon Retail Arbitrage

Pros of Doing Retail Arbitrage

  • Relatively low risk (especially compared to importing from China)
  • There's a thrill of the hunt in looking for deals
  • Does not require a big capital

Cons of Doing Retail Arbitrage

  • It can be frustrating when you don't find any great deals for a long time
  • You still need capital
  • Requires you to ship the items to Amazon

#2Business Ideas for Teens #2: Buy Products for Cheap at Garage Sales/Facebook Marketplace and Sell them on eBay

This business idea is like the retail arbitrage strategy in the previous item, except here, you're selling used products on eBay instead of Amazon. Where do you find these products? The most common way is locally through either garage sales or through Facebook Marketplace.

look for used items on facebook marketplace
Facebook Marketplace and even local garage sales can be a great source of items to resell on eBay.

The advantage of this strategy is that it's relatively easier to find great deals, especially if you're a decent negotiator. The downside is that you're only ever going to find one product (unlike the retail arbitrage strategy above, where you might find an entire discount bin at Walmart where you can buy dozens of products at a great deal).

What your day-to-day jobs will be:

  • Looking for products on Facebook Marketplace or garage sales
  • Negotiating with sellers
  • Listing items for sale on eBay and shipping them to customers

Can non-Americans run this business? Not really.

How to get started now: Open an eBay account and start looking on Facebook Marketplace for deals.

Further Reading: Amazon vs eBay – A comparison

Pros of Buying and Selling Used Items

  • Relatively easy to find good deals
  • Ability to make a great profit on items if you negotiate well

Cons of Buying and Selling Used Items

  • You almost always have to buy one product at a time
  • Listing items on eBay can be time-consuming
  • Requires you to personally ship items to customers

#3Business Ideas for Teens #3: Import Products from China

This business idea is one near and dear to my heart as it's basically the idea I use in my companies now.

This involves buying products from China for cheap and reselling them for a profit on sites like Amazon and eBay. This business idea is great because once your products actually arrive from China, you are almost guaranteed sales as long as your items are priced low (it doesn't mean you'll necessarily make a ton of profit, but that's another topic altogether). 

However, there are a couple of big downsides to importing from China. First, you need a lot of money to start buying products, typically, a minimum of $1,000 to $5,000. Second, there's a lot of official paperwork you will need to get started. You will need an Amazon Seller account (which you will technically need to be 18 years old to open) and you will eventually need an actual business to import into America. 

Money Needed: $1,000 minimum, ideally $5,000+

What your day-to-day jobs will be:

  • Looking for product opportunities on Amazon and then finding factories in China to make these products for you. 
  • Finding the best shipping options to have the products shipped inexpensively from China
  • Creating good-looking product pages on Amazon advertising your products
  • Dealing with customer support

Out-of-the-Box Opportunities: Everyone is selling on Amazon. Buy products for cheap from China and sell them for more money locally through sites like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Kijiji, etc.

Can non-Americans run this business? Yes, although it's easier if you live in America because you can have your first products shipped right to your house.

How to Get Started now: Brainstorm some product ideas. Use a tool like Helium 10 to see how much those products are selling on Amazon. Start emailing factories from Alibaba. 

Further Reading: EcomCrew's Importing from China Guide 

Pros of Importing from China

  • The easiest way to get sales right away
  • As a teen, you're probably comfortable with a lower income, so you can offer lower prices

Cons of Importing from China

  • Requires a fairly large capital
  • Lots of legal paperwork to get in order

#4Business Ideas for Teens #4: Start a Website and Make Advertising Income

Next on the list is probably the easiest way to start a business that there is: starting a blog or website, getting visitors, and then making money through either ads or affiliate revenue. It's basically EcomCrew's business model.

The biggest advantage to this business model is you can essentially get started for very little or no money. The biggest downside is that building organic traffic takes a lot of time. At a minimum, it will take many months, and, realistically, a couple of years. The other downside is you need to enjoy writing. You don't need to be a good writer, but you need to enjoy it as you'll be writing a lot.

Just like starting an e-commerce business, you'll need to pick a niche, i.e., one topic that you're going to write about on a continuous basis. Once you start getting traffic to your website (around 50 to 100 visitors a day), you can start monetizing it by selling advertising (one of the most popular ways for websites to earn money is through Amazon Associates, where you get a percentage of every sale someone makes after clicking your links). You can promote products from Amazon, and you can get 1% to 5% of the sale price every time someone clicks your link and ends up buying that product.

What your day-to-day jobs will be:

  • Writing and researching articles
  • Trying to get backlinks for these articles from other related websites
  • Creating and managing a WordPress website

Out-of-the-Box Opportunities: Everyone wants to make a website in English as it's the largest market, but if you speak other languages, there's often much less competition there.

Can non-Americans run this business? Yes.

How to Get Started now: Most websites are based on WordPress. Start a WordPress website either on WordPress.com or get a cheap hosting account through a company like Bluehost.com

Further Reading: Check out one of my favorite blogging websites, NichePursuits.com 

Pros of Hosting an Advertising Website

  • Free/Cheap to get started
  • Completely location independent and great for non-Americans

Cons of Hosting an Advertising Website

  • Takes a lot of time to start getting traffic
  • Requires a decent ability to write

#5Business Ideas for Teens #5: Become an Influencer

Influencers can sometimes have a bit of a bad rap. When people think of influencers, they often think about the Kardashians, but anyone with a bit of a social following is an influencer (in fact, this article's very author would be considered an e-commerce influencer!). 

Shawn Woods' YouTube channel has over a million subscribers showing viewers how to catch mice.

To be an influencer, you need to do two things. First, pick a niche you want to become influential in. For me, the main one is e-commerce, but it can be literally anything. It can be toy reviews like Ryan Kaji, it can be doing history infographics like The Infographic Show, or it can even be showing people how to catch mice like Shawn Woods' channel.

How much money can you make as an influencer? It depends on two things: your reach (i.e., how many people view your content on average) and your niche. Business influencers, for example, tend to be on the high side, while travel influencers tend to be on the low side. For videos, you will typically make somewhere around $2 to $10 per 1,000 viewers (referred to in the advertising world as CPM), or roughly 0.2¢ (less than a penny) to 1¢ per view. Obviously, the more viewers you have, the more money you make.

What your day-to-day jobs will be:

  • Creating new videos or posting photos regularly
  • Finding content materials or topics 
  • Collaborating with other influencers

Out-of-the-Box Opportunities: Don't like being on camera? There are lots of influencers, especially on Youtube, that only use animations and photos in their videos, like The Infographic Show mentioned above.

Can non-Americans run this business? Yes.

How to Get Started now: Make your first video now and post it. Don't worry about making it perfect. Just get it up.

Further Reading: Check out the official YouTube Guide on posting your first video.

Pros of Becoming an Influencer

  • It's free/cheap to get started
  • Your channel will naturally grow over time as your content ages
  • You get influence over people (hence the name)
  • Advertising rates have generally been going up for many years

Cons of Becoming an Influencer

  • Takes a long time for your content to finally get traction
  • Creating and editing video is extremely time-consuming

#6 Business Idea for Teens #6: Start a Podcast

Podcasts have become extremely popular over the last few years. The exclamation mark on this was when Spotify bought Joe Rogan's podcast for a reported $200 million. Starting a podcast is another example of content creation. It's not that different from becoming an influencer or starting a website, as the end result is your creating content for people. You will also notice a trend here as there are basically three basic content forms: written, video, and audio.

ecomcrew podcast cover
Of all content creation business models, podcasts probably require the least time but are also one of the hardest to get traction for.

Starting a podcast is both a hard and easy way to make money. It's easy in the sense that all you need to get started is to record a 30- to 60-minute audio file. You can record it with the pre-installed software on your computer (Voice Memos if you're using a Mac or Sound Recorder on PCs). Once you've recorded your podcast, you upload it using a tool like Libsyn. It also takes very limited editing (unlike editing video content which can take hours for every minute of video). On the other hand, it's one of the hardest ways because for 30 to 60 minutes, you need to be interesting and entertaining by relying on nothing more than your voice (and/or your guest's voice).

Like almost everything mentioned here, you'll need to start by picking a niche. For us, it's e-commerce, but there are a million podcasts on a million different topics. For you, it might be on SAT prep, your local sports team, or fashion ideas. Once you have your niche picked, it will help a lot if you can have a co-host or guests to interview (it can be hard to get guests in the beginning, so it's easiest if you find a friend who wants to commit to recording a podcast every week with you). Most podcasts will fail because the creator gives up after a few episodes. You want to release a podcast at least every week. Record your podcasts in batches (many at a time) to avoid any instances where you're scrambling to come up with a topic at the last minute. 

How much do podcasts make? Typically, it's around $50 to $100 per 1,000 listeners. So if you have 3,000 listeners, you'll make roughly $150 to $300 per episode. 

What your day-to-day jobs will be:

  • Recording a weekly 30- to 60-minute podcast
  • Finding interesting guests to interview

Out-of-the-Box Opportunities: Many people find it difficult to speak off-the-cuff for 30 to 60 minutes. Write out your entire podcast, i.e., prepare a script, and simply read it (Malcolm Gladwell's Revisionist History podcast follows a similar format).

Can non-Americans run this business? Yes, but if you're appealing to an English audience, you'll need to have perfect English.

How to Get Started now: Record your first podcast and upload it either directly to Apple Podcasts or using software like Libsyn

Further Reading: How Much We Make From A Podcast With 3 Million Downloads/Month

Pros of Starting a Podcast

  • Requires the smallest time commitment (30 to 60 minute weekly podcasts)
  • Requires very little editing after recording
  • Limited startup costs – essentially, you just need a decent $50 microphone (any Rode microphone will do the trick) 

Cons of Starting a Podcast

  • It can be difficult to be interesting for 30 to 60 minutes with only your voice to entertain people
  • Can be difficult to consistently find interesting topics

Conclusion

In summary, the two most popular ways to make money are by selling physical products (e-commerce) and creating content. No matter what business you choose to start as a teenager, right now is without a doubt the best time for you to start. Many people get to the point when they're in their twenties and are too afraid to start a business because they've gotten addicted to the taste of a steady paycheck from working a 9 to 5. Now is the time for you to take some risks and learn what you really like and want to do and, most importantly, now is the time to make some extra money!

Dave Bryant

Dave Bryant has been importing from China for over 10 years and has started numerous product brands. He sold his multi-million dollar ecommerce business in 2016 and create another 7-figure business within 18 months. He's also a former Amazon warehouse employee of one week.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button