Starting A Free Online Business, Step by Step

Every day, thousands of people search for information on starting a free online business. They are looking at online business systems, searching for free online business opportunities, and basically looking for legitimate home business ideas so that they can work from home.

That's what I do, and I love it. That's a photo of me above. It was actually taken several years ago - this is my 12th year working from home. And it was taken at a friends house too. I love being able to work anytime, anywhere!

Anyway- yesterday I had opportunity to meet two such ladies who were searching for that very information, and who happen to live in my town. They found me on MySpace, so we talked there and then decided to meet for lunch and discuss what it takes to start an online business.

I'll share the same details with you here that I shared with them over lunch, which were simple steps for starting a free online business. I cant share the fabulous spinach salad, or the great conversation we had, but hopefully this will prove useful to you if you are searching for internet business ideas yourself...

Home Business Ideas

There are so many home business opportunities and internet business ideas, that it can be a little overwhelming to figure out where you should start. We talked about a few of the different business models - from ecommerce sites that use wholesale dropshipping, to offering a service or starting your own blog.

You can make money online in a variety of ways. Just a few examples include: sell your own product, offer services, sell advertising on your website or blog, or promote other people's products and/or services.

That last option is called Affiliate Marketing. It's basically commission-based sales, and I compare it to the offline model of selling Kirby vacuum cleaners. When you make sales, you make money. You can sign up as an affiliate for a company and they will give you an Affiliate Link. You promote that link, and anyone that goes through your link to make a purchase will be tracked - resulting in a commission to you for that sale.

This is the internet business model that I focused on during our conversation over lunch yesterday. I actually use a variety of internet business models to make money online myself, but Affiliate Marketing seemed to be a perfect match for my new friends.

Some business models are active, while others are more passive. An active business model requires a more active role on your part. A membership site for example is high maintenance. If you offer services, then you need to interact with clients and take phone calls on a regular basis. I prefer passive income models, which allow you more freedom and flexibility.

That's not to say that active business models cant be incredibly profitable and successful, just that something more passive seemed like a good fit once I got to know her a bit.

To clarify, when I say passive I dont mean that you wont have to work at it. I think we've all kind of figured out by now that "get rich quick schemes" dont really work. And we were discussing real, legitimate ways to make consistent income online. Not spotty one-off ways to make a few bucks here and there.

We discussed the realistic investment of time and money, and I confessed that I put a lot of time in upfront to get each of my internet business models up and running (some more than others). I explained that you could invest money to get sales rolling in quicker, or you could invest time (up to 6-12 months even) to get your sales up to a good level on a consistent basis. You'll make money along the way of course, but geting that consistent income is the key.

Going that route, you can get started for less than $10. Yes, literally.

The passive part comes in after you have your affiliate site up and running - once you've done that groundwork. With affiliate marketing the merchant is handling orders, shipping and customer service. All you have to do is send them traffic through your affiliate link.

Once your site is up and running, you've set up your systems (such as a newsletter, blog, or whatever fits your model), and you're driving traffic to the site... most of the "work" from there can be automated, and maintained in very little time. For example, I can usually run a site like that in as little as 5 hours a week. That frees you up to create more just like it, and duplicate your income πŸ˜‰

Starting a Free Online Business

I mentioned above that you can get started for less than $10. I know that a lot of people are interested in starting a free online business, but this small investment is well worth it. Especially if you are serious about making a consistent income with a real online business.

You could actually spend a lot more than ten bucks, but if you take my advice you'll save a lot of money - and still end up with a solid internet business model.

What are the steps in creating an online business?

Your first step is to decide what niche you will target. Meaning: what are you going to sell, or what topic is your website going to be about? You might start with the product, or you might start with the topic - it doesnt really matter as long as you get that initial idea.

To help you, here are some of my own mini-tutorials on keyword research. Keywords are simply the words or phrases that people are searching for online. If you read through the links on that page, you'll have a much better understanding of how you can research keywords to choose topics or products.

Once you decide what your website will be about, you'll need two things: a domain name and a hosting account. The domain name is your website address (like is mine) and the hosting account is the space online where you will put your website.

I use to register my domain names. For hosting, I use HostGator - they allow you to host multiple domains or sites on the one account (saving you money when you start duplicating!) and they have tons of cool features that save you time & money too.

The domain name will cost you $8.95 for the first year. The HostGator account is $9.95/month, but I have a coupon code you can use to get your first month free. And that's all you really need upfront to get started - so start up cost is actually less than $9, and then 9.95/month.

So you've picked a topic for your website, you registered a domain name, you set up your hosting account... now you need to create a website. (This is the hard part for most people)

It might be tempting to just hire a web designer, and that's certainly an option, but you really want to learn some things yourself if you are going to be running an internet business. Creating your own website will also save you a lot of money.

You'll find some tools in your hosting account to help you develop your website. You can also find all kinds of free resources online by doing a search. If you decide you need some help, consider hiring someone to design a template for you - not an entire website. Its much cheaper to just outsource the template design and do the rest of the work yourself.

You're going to run into questions along the way. But dont let that stop you! I have an online business discussion forum where you can stop in and ask any questions you have, and get help from others who have already gone through these steps themselves.

Go back through the steps and check out some of the links. Read my keyword research tutorials, and then join us at the forum if you have any questions before you get started.

Next, see: Starting A Home Business? Read this...

If you liked this tutorial, be sure to sign up for my free weekly tips. It's the best way to get the current scoop on free resources, and new online business tips!


p.s. Also See: Online Jobs - Work From Home

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About Lynn Terry

Lynn Terry is a full-time Internet Marketer with over 17 years experience in online business. Subscribe to ClickNewz for the latest Internet Marketing trends & strategies, Lynn's unique case studies, creative marketing ideas, and candid reviews...moreΒ»


  1. Excellent list of ideas and links. Will recommend your site to others

  2. Thank you, Jay! I would love to get this helpful information into as many hands as possible. All links, blog posts, stumbles, diggs & recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

    This outline just may save hundreds of people from wasting tons of time & money trying to figure out how to get started. I think most of us can relate to that one!

    And of course if you have any feedback or additional recommendations to share here, feel free to leave those as a comment.

  3. Tina Williams says

    This was a very information packed post! As a WAHM finding information from a trust worthy source is extremely important.

    I am new to your site so I was shocked to see one link after another leading to even more information that was both credible and helpful!

    The "mini-tutorials on keyword research" link was a must-click!

    Thanks for putting this out there!

  4. im so happy to have learned how to make extra job online, extra money too.

  5. Hello! I've just started reading and you have great advice, but I always seem to run into the problem of getting the traffic to my work at home topic sites. Any helpful tips?

  6. Thank you, Tess & welcome to ClickNewz πŸ˜€

    I do have some good tutorials to help you get (free) traffic to your websites. A couple you'll like are:

    Stop Linking to Your Home Page!

    10 Free Ways to Drive Traffic To A Brand New Website

    That should be a good start. You can also join my free discussion forum and post any questions you have about getting traffic & exposure:

  7. Lynn,

    This is just what I needed.

    Thank you so much!


  8. Informative - as always!

    I'm not going to lie, I read thoroughly through your "10 free ways to drive traffic" post when I was starting an affiliate site of mine back in April - and it worked wonders.

    I agree, affiliate marketing is a great place to start for anyone looking to get their feet wet in the online business world, and If you can manage to get blogging on the front end and some pay per click action in the back end - you'll be laughing all the way to the bank.

    It's a beautiful thing πŸ™‚

  9. Thank you Nancy πŸ™‚

    Glad to hear you are having success with Affiliate Marketing too, Elijah. Also glad the 10 marketing tips were helpful for you. Its a great business model, with tons of potential!

  10. Lynn, this is a solid "how-to" post with some great references. Can't wait to share it. Like I said in my comments to Ryan Moran's question.

    *You give good solid advice.
    *You are responsive to your list.
    *You are warm and caring.
    *You are who you are "transparent"
    *Your list knows you and considers you a friend.

    Follow Lynn
    You will win ;o)

    Live joyfully!


  11. Amy Miyamoto says

    Hi Lynn,
    I have been following your work for a couple of months and you are always so helpful to those just starting out and also so generous with your resources. These two things really make a lasting impression to be sure.

    Yet again, in this post you provide such a wealth of valuable sources to explore and increase our knowledge of creating a successful business online.

    I am in the process of launching a new online business and have been learning many great things from Ed and the 30DC. Your work serves as a perfect compliment for me in feeling confident that success is a matter of "when" not "if". I am sure you two got along smashingly at Stompernet!

    Thank you for all you do.
    On Twitter @amymiyamoto

  12. Melissa Ingold says


    First that is awesome that you meet up with these ladies and shared your resources with them.

    Then to come on here and share them with us.

    Thank You!

  13. Thank you so much ladies - I really appreciate the 'vote' and the kind words. I *love* what I do, and really would like to see more people achieve the same. The options and opportunities are definitely there!

  14. Debbie Murray says

    Hey, thanks again, Lynn. This is great. It has been a year for me...trying to find a job and getting pretty much no where. Rather confounding since I've been a legal secretary for 19 years. Anyway, I really thank you for this 'cause this is perfect timing and I'm ready for this now!

  15. Excellent, Debbie! The outline above should prove a great start for you, but definitely let me know if you run into questions along the way. The forum is open 24/7 πŸ˜‰

  16. Wow Lynn, as everyone else has already said, this was a fantastic post.

    I lately have had one thing after another preventing me from spending the time I need to work on things online, but as I get back to my favorite places, yours is always packed full of such helpful information. I understand that you love what you do, but I think you even go a step or two more to help. πŸ™‚

    Thanks again

  17. Thank you Jean πŸ˜€

  18. Hi Lynn

    I haven't been around for a long while, Feb 25th actually when I came home to a half empty home and a "Dear Al ..." note. Took a few months to get over it, return my brain to creativity, and realize that the house was still half full. Life starts again.

    Anyway, great information. The hardest part is always putting the pieces together to get started and then staying focused. I find it all too easy to go off on different tangents.

    As with anything there is and will be a learning curve. My opinion is that one must be realistic and expect to invest 3-6 months for learning the ropes, so to speak. Get your feet wet first then slowly dive in. There are a lot of hats to wear.

    Well, off to the day job πŸ™

  19. Oh Al - I am so sorry to hear the news. I know firsthand the grief that goes along with that experience...

    I'm glad to see you back, and in positive spirits no less. And you're right - you have to invest some time to get your online business started and off the ground, just like with any business. I made that point *very* clear over lunch with my new friends.

    Take care, and pipe in when you get a chance!

  20. Lynn - Thanks for the warm thoughts. The day it happened was at the beginning of week 3 or 4 of Mass Control. I was flying pretty high, so many ideas, and then CRASH. I did get everything saved and will get back to it in the somewhat near future.

    I read about the 30DC here, late but still was able to get everything saved. I have a niche project that will be perfect for it and can't wait to get it going.

    The point I'm making for other readers is that "things" happen and don't give up. Might have to put it on hold until "things" change. Still get the information you'll need as you can always get back to it if you stored (downloaded) it locally.

    My next task, get my main website made over (started).

    Lynn as most will surely agree, you are exceptional πŸ™‚

    It's nice to be back.

  21. Thank you Al - its great to have you back too!

    I agree, "life happens". Its "happened" to me on ocassion as well over the years - as many people are well aware. About the only consistent thing in life that we can count on... is change πŸ˜‰

  22. Success Factors says

    Lynn, thanks for the wealth of information. I was reading a chapter from Tony Robbins' book, Awaken the Giant Within, on creating wealth. You do this by seeking to add massive value to your customers. Thanks for modeling this in your website. I am going to be seeking to emulate you! πŸ™‚

  23. As with anything there is and will be a learning curve. My opinion is that one must be realistic and expect to invest 3-6 months for learning the ropes, so to speak. Get your feet wet first then slowly dive in. There are a lot of hats to wear.

    What "Al" said above is SOOOOO true!

    I am not an internet newbie, but by no means am I successful on the internet, but have over the past year I would say, really taken the time to research and learn what it takes to be successful on the net, and there are so many different options. The first thing one should do is invest TIME studying and researching successful methods, and current internet marketing and advertising methods.

    Knowledge IS power, and the online business industry is no different.

    I look forward to delving more deeply into your blog, as there is a plethora of knowledge and resources that demand further attention!

    Thank you so much Lynn!

  24. Lynn,

    I have read most of the content on this page in when I first signed up on your site. We all have our why's for doing anything we do, I felt it something for you to know so I am going to tell you. My why is for my children one of which passed away almost 3 years now. I realized that there can be money to be made on the internet, but I was not sure I was doing it correctly before. I had a website for my son and talked about what we went through mentally and to try and prepare parents for what they should expect with what my son had. I monetized the site with only adsense. I made only $80 so far on that site, but I realized that it should not be this hard to make money on the internet. So here I am after my family fell apart trying to get back to something I can call normal.

    Bottom line, I need to do this for a number of reasons, my children, for me because I have never had the support system that would allow me to follow through with my dreams, and lastly because the auto industry is not doing well right now (I work for one of the big 3 where I live) and I need extra cash to suppliment my life right now in the aftermath of my son's passing and now a divorce.

    I am struggling with what to actually do with my site(s). I believe that I am lazy also, and by that I mean that I have passion for my life and what I do with it, but I like to work smart, not hard. So, if there is something I can do that will free up time to do more of the important things in life, well that is what I need to be doing. I have been looking for a mentor that will help me through all this, but of course everyone has their own lives to live. My dream is to eventually be able to help other people become successful in life, not just monetarily, but in just the living part. The lesson learned is "Life is Short so let's live it" I will gladly provide any more information that you need to guide me to the end part where I can actually stop feeling trapped and alone and full of anxiety about how am I gonna pay all the bills.

    Thanks Much,

  25. I was looking forward towards affiliate marketing.. it was hard to trust people to work for specially in internet marketing, there are lots of scammers in this kind of business but if you can manage to get bunch of good people your success is for sure.

    Great tips Lynn thanks for this, got a pointer for the future business. =)

  26. Hi Cassandra,

    What kind of scammers have you run into in Affiliate Marketing? I'd be interested to hear some of your experiences. In over 10 years I have had very few negative experiences, and all were ultimately resolved. But I'd love to hear from others that may have experienced something I have not...

  27. Clint,
    If I'm not mistaken (and I very well could be) you are an Elite Member at SSWT, correct? If so, be sure to post a new thread there in the private forum and I will help you personally.

    I'll be honest with you. There arent many business models (online or off) that dont require a substantial investment of either time or money. One of the reasons so many people turn to online business is because you can get in for very little money if you are willing to invest the time.

    That's not to say you'll always have to work full-time hours at it, but certainly during the start-up and development phases - until you get your venture up and running, properly marketed & automated.

    Let me know how I can help.

  28. Clint Anderson says

    I am elite Lynn, and I have a post that has been generated already in the brainstorming section. So I will try to update that and where I am in the process soon, thanks for being here for us.


  29. Lynn,
    I sell bedding online. I've been up and running for a year. It's very slow. I've been learning about SEO, PPC, blogging etc.
    Do you have a degree in language arts or something? It seems that being able to write great copy and having a very creative brain is what's needed to make any online business work.

    I have been in construction for 16 years. Last year everything came to a hault....that's how the bedding business happened. Only it's not making money.

    I've learned a lot but I need to learn more and how to put it in motion.
    Any advice?

  30. Hi Stacey,

    You have a beautiful website! Very well done.

    How much traffic are you getting to the site, and where is that traffic coming from? I noticed that you have "optimized your site" for specific keyword phrases. For example, one of your pages ranks #1 on Google on my end for "southern textiles futon covers". However, WordTracker shows NO searches for that phrase... which might be where the problem lies.

    I think if you did some fresh keyword research, re-optimized your pages, and worked hard on quality link-building... you'd start seeing some free traffic and of course sales.

    And no, I dont have a degree in language arts. I didnt even finish high school. So if I can do this - ANYone can πŸ˜‰

  31. Lynn,

    What a nice set of resources you provide for do-it-yourselfers looking to build a business online!

    In trying to decide how to build parts of a web business (like build a web site, or Internet Marketing), I like to use a framework I call "Different kinds of Cheap". There are four different kinds of cheap: DIY, Templates/toolkits, packaged business services and custom-built. Each has its own pros and cons.

    At the complete DIY level, you can use wizards from hosting providers if you don't feel comfortable building your own site and editing HTML.

    At the template/toolkit-level, this blog entry and others you have outline some terrific approaches using templated web sites and simple to use, free editors.

    Next, you can use a packaged business service like Logoworks website design packages.

    Finally, you can have a custom design put together ... and this can range from $1,000 to $25,000 (and beyond).

    Which one you choose is a function of your own design sense, your technical proficiency, your plans for your web business and your budget. But its nice to know the options available to you.

    Hope that adds some useful ideas to the thread. Thanks for this wonderful resource, Lynn.


  32. Thanks Lynn,

    I am glad to see you doing this and appreciate your generosity.

    Having NO technical proficiency, I find it hard to get a good start! I have visited your other site and noted you have a sticky post for "Ultimate Supertips", so I chose to start with that. Now if I could just learn to set up a decent website with autoresponder I'd be across the "beginning" line.

    I will visit often I am sure!


  33. This is such a good articles. When we discuss about affiliate marketing, selling one products in one page is very effective. However, I have a question here. Does selling a lots affiliate products in a single blog will drive the same effectiveness in terms of sales? Since it is the most easier way to maintain it.

  34. Lynn,

    Ditto what others have said in regards to your information and willingness to help others. Quite refreshing. Anyway, when I clicked on the links you provided "Free Affiliate Marketing Tutorial" and "Free Affiliate Marketing Guide", they didn't quite work as indicated. When I click on the Tutorial, it tells me the link isn't found. When I click on the Guide, it seems to be an ad letter for a program. Could these links be out of date or could they have been input incorrectly. Or, and this is very likely, did I misread and/or misclick?



  35. I appreciate the heads-up on that, Tom. I removed the links because they got changed as you mentioned. All of Jeremy's tutorials are now on this one page:

  36. Jeffery Wood says

    I do like all the information you shared, about the only thing I'd do different is suggest an autoresponder (bringing the monthly cost up to $20) as starting "The List" while you're starting everything else will ultimately make life a little easier in the long run.

    Though adding an autoresponder later isn't any big deal, when you import your list they will often want to send out another confirmation so the potential of losing part of your list is there. It happened to a friend of mine, she lost half of her list because they didn't reconfirm, for whatever reason.

    If possible stay away from free hosting and free autoresponders as they often inject ads into your sites and/or emails.

    - Jeffery

  37. Jeffery Wood says

    Oops, I can't do math. I meant the monthly cost goes from $10 to $30, not $20. I've heard of places that have autoresponders for $10, but I haven't seen them and the most popular ones are $18-$20.

    - Jeffery

  38. thank you! my mom has been wanting to work at home for years ..... NOW SHE CAN!! thany you once again!

  39. Your Life Creation says

    Great article! Thanks for the tips

  40. Traffic Matters says

    Great advice from a great site!

    I wish there were more πŸ™‚

  41. The thing that I love most about you is that you are such an honest person. I love that you tell it like it is. You do the one thing I've always wanted to do--help people. Thanks for all you do.

  42. auto responders says

    I am really trying to get my online business going. Have not had to much success with the dropshipping stuff think I will stick to ebook and adsense sites. Thank you for the insight though this is some great info!

  43. I have a new post up that may interest you as well:

    Starting a Home Business? Read this…

  44. What an excellent post! You defined the whole process of starting a home business in such a clear, concise manner. I look forward to reading your future posts. Thank You.

  45. samantha johnson says

    The question I have.What about a affilate furnished website,would that work and what are some good ones?

    • Hi Samantha,

      I would not recommend that option. You really need to create your own site or blog to be successful with affiliate marketing. Feel free to join my forum if you have any questions - glad to help!

  46. hello Lynn, your article is helping me much. thank you for sharing your ideas and hope i can do the same.


  47. Flash Design says

    I am starting an affiliate business web site myself and I'm glad you mentioned it takes effort and time to get it rolling. It agree, it does take 6-12 months to start an affiliate website - of you want to get it right.

    For all of those who want to start with affiliate marketing, I advice Ken Evoy's e-book Make You Content Pre-Sell. It is free I believe. Just Google it, read it and act just as it says.

  48. Hi,

    It is not necessary if you have a solid idea then you will succeed. There are so many things you have to look when you are starting any new venture, just having an good idea is not enough, you need to have knowledge and strategies and proper strategy execution is far important then just having a strategy under your belt, and most crucial part is you have to craft yourself according to the needs of the market and without planning its not possible; only experts can help you in proper planning. So to me, help from professionals is very crucial.

  49. Really very great tutorial. Blogging is one best source for start home business. I see lots of people waste their time for searching work at home jobs and they involve in scam. I recommend those people to start blogging for build their home business.

  50. Lisa Marie Mary says

    Super cool you guys are having lunch today! I knew right when you tweeted it - who you were talking about! πŸ™‚

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