Alistair Vermaak

product images for an online business

What’s The Best Online Business To Start in 2021 – Where To Begin

Let’s face facts – COVID has shattered the illusion of 9 to 5 work.  We have technology on our side now and it makes it extremely easy for anyone to work from anywhere and still be connected to the business, no matter where they are, as long as they have an internet connection. 

That however, isn’t the point of this article.  I want to talk about you!  I want you to think about what I am about to discuss and the choice you can make to transition from where you are now, to owning your own Business and working on your own terms.

What’s the fastest path to Starting Your Own Business?

I can list many businesses you can start right now, but, you’ll need to do a lot of prep work, create a brand, etc, etc.  But, I’m not going to talk about any of those things.  There is only one thing I want to focus on here.

Other People’s Products & Services

I am going to be talking about proven products and services that are already in demand and the people who supply them.  Yes, I’m referring to “Affiliate Marketing”.

If you’ve dabbled in Affiliate Marketing, never made a sale and think it doesn’t work, that’s OK, this is your chance to hit that back button.

For anyone still curious about how it might be able to work for them, let’s dive in.

Why promote other people’s products/services?

There are many pros and cons to Affiliate Marketing, so let’s have a look at the Cons, then the Pros:


  • There are many shady products being pushed
  • Affiliate links can be hijacked
  • Some affiliate programs skim profits
  • Some affiliates never make any money
  • Some vendors don’t help their affiliates
  • Some affiliate offers can ruin your reputation
  • There are millions of offers to choose from
  • It can be difficult to get traction


  • You have very little overheads, sometimes as low as a hosting fee
  • You don’t need to convince anyone to buy or do any selling
  • You don’t need to handle shipping
  • You don’t need to handle customer support
  • It’s easy to get started
  • It’s a real business
  • You can make sales in a few minutes
  • You can work from anywhere
  • You can work as much or as little as you want
  • There is no limit to how much you can make
  • Most Affiliate Marketers grow their income monthly

You might be looking at the Pros and Cons and think why the heck would anyone want to take a chance on Affiliate Marketing?

I’m here to tell you that it absolutely does work, if you have either time or money to invest in it. (just like any real business)

Due Diligence

Just like any business, it pays to do some market research, check the landscape and see if you’re heading into a market where you can profit from promoting other people’s products/services.

Just like any business, you have to invest time or money to make a profit.  The HUGE difference between a brick and mortar business compared to an online business is the cost and time it can take to get started.

Now for the Fun Bit – Where to Start?

In order to make money online, there’s a process to follow.  I will make it as simple as possible.

  1. Identify Your Strengths/weaknesses (knowledge, skills, likes and dislikes)
  2. Identify your market – groups of people with problems
  3. Search for a solution – affiliate offers
  4. Setup your platform – blog, social media, etc
  5. Offer the solution – create content or run ads

Let’s get to it, shall we…….

Your Strengths and weaknesses

I can spend all day on this topic but want to keep it short.  You need to grab a pen and paper and score yourself.  Create a list of all the things you know a lot about and often find yourself doing, for example:

  • Painting  (8)
  • Gardening (9)
  • Home remedies(4)
  • Cooking(2)
  • Pets (3)

Now, next to each one, rate yourself from 1 – 10, 1 being the least interested and 10 being the most interested. 

Which do you know the most about and which one gets you the most excited?  Could you see yourself writing and dealing with that one topic day in and day out for the rest of your life?

Be honest with yourself.  List everything that you possibly can.   What do you know and do?  (I only listed 5 to show you the example).

When you finish, put the paper aside and think of more things you can add to the list for the day.  The next morning, finish rating yourself and choose your 3-5 highest scored topics.

Market research

Note your 3-5 highest rated topics and for each one, go look for a market.

The most important thing you need to have is a market.  Without a market (customers) you don’t have a business and can never make it work.

How do you find a market?

Go to places where people form groups and have common interests or seem to have problems.  Look for the questions they ask.  Look for common errors they face, challenges they have and then find a solution to offer.

  • Look at magazines – which types sell (crafts, hobbies, business, etc)
  • Look for online Forums (art, sports, health)
  • Look for groups (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc)
  • Look for Q&A Sites (Quora, Questions, Yahoo, etc)
  • Networking events (Events Online,, Ticketnetwork)

In my case, if we use my example, I will be looking for gardening and painting group[s to see what challenges people face and make notes of all the types of problems they’re facing.

You want to write these questions down, exactly as they have phrased them.  Doing so, helps you create content that resonates with the people looking for help.

Example “problem statement “in a group:

I’ve been trying for weeks to get my tomato plants to bounce back.  The leaves have yellowed.  I’ve given them more compost and more water but nothing seems to help. 

You come in with an affiliate offer and reply to the person in the group –

 The reason why tomato plants leaves go yellow are varied, but here is a book that has all the answers.  I did some research and think that chapter 4 has the solution you need.  They mentioned nitrogen.  Tell you what, here’s the link to the book if you’re interested.  Hope it helps.

 If you can offer them the answer and a solution to their problem, don’t you think they would buy?  You don’t need to be sleazy or salesy.  Just be you, be helpful, kind and courteous.

Quick Recap

We’ve identified your strengths and we’ve found markets.  The next thing we want to do is find out where all of the offers are that we can put in front of people looking for solutions.

To be honest, just about every business out there has an affiliate program.  All you need to do is go to your favorite brand and scroll down to the bottom and look in the footer for the “Affiliate Program” link and sign up.

There are however many networks that have hundreds or thousands of advertisers that need affiliates to promote their goods.  That’s where you come in.  Go sign up with these networks and choose offers to provide solutions to people looking for them:

*Note – some affiliate marketplaces are easy to get into, others may require a telephone call or video interview.  Be open and honest about your intentions, experience and everything else.  If you don’t succeed with one network, don’t worry, there are many more to try.

 Here are the Networks to try sign up with:

  • Shareasale
  • Commission Junction
  • Rakuten
  • Maxbounty*
  • Pepperjam

These are the easiest networks to get into, with the exception of Maxbounty, they will require a video meeting to get to know you first.

Once you’ve signed up, fill out your profile, list all the methods you’ll use to promote offers and then approach vendors to promote.

Setup your platform

I would personally setup a platform the moment I realize there is a market for a product/service.  You on the other hand may see things differently.

For the sake of this article, we’re now going to consider a platform.  What do I mean “a platform”?  Typically, if you want to build a house, you will start with a plan and a foundation to build on.  I’ve given you the plan (framework) now we need to build the foundation.

Owned Platform

Social Media is great for getting to mix and mingle in groups and sharing content, but they can change their rules at any time without regard for your business.

It’s great getting traffic from Google if you abide by certain rules, but if they make any changes, they don’t ask you first, they just go ahead and do so, without consequence to themselves.

The best thing you can do is build an audience and platform that you own and control 100%.  The types of platforms you can build are:

  • Websites & Blogs
  • Podcasts hosted on your site
  • Video Hubs on your site
  • Stories and Courses hosted on your site
  • Communities & Lists (Email & Chatbot Lists) that you host

When you setup your platform, from day one, your purpose is to grow your list or community.  The reason you want to do this is so that you don’t ever need to depend on outside networks or other external platforms for traffic to your solutions.

Once you’ve chosen a platform and started creating content, you need to start offering the solutions.

Offer Solutions

Every second of the day someone looks for a solution online.  You need to get your solution in front of these people.  The best way to deliver this is – content.

To make passive income that continues to grow, day in, day out – create content with recurring income solutions wherever possible.

Focus on evergreen markets, products and solutions.

What are evergreen markets?

Evergreen markets are markets that never go out of style, they are always there and always will be, examples include

  • Health
  • Finance
  • Relationships
  • Personal Development

Just remember the above list is the broad market.  There are much smaller markets and niches within these broad markets where it will be easier to compete with others.

What types of products are evergreen?

When we talk about evergreen products, we’re talking about products that will always be used and re-ordered or paid for month after month:

  • Hosting Services
  • Internet
  • Software (SAAS)
  • Health Clubs
  • TV On Demand

As long as someone has a need for a product or service and gets a benefit from it, they will happily continue to pay for it.  It’s these types of products or solutions you should focus on to continue to grow your online business.

Need a hand getting started?  Let me know, I’ve built a number of sites and am familiar with affiliate marketing.  I can help and am happy to answer any questions.

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