Seemingly now more than ever there is a desire for location independence. Imagine being able to earn an income without being stuck in the same place, the same office day in day out. So what are the best mobile business ideas?
Maybe it was Tim Ferris who got us all dreaming about the 4 Hour Work Week, and since then we’ve been thinking about how we can make a living while traveling the world.
Even if you don’t picture yourself as a nomad roaming the uttermost parts of the earth, you may still be looking for some mobile business ideas that allow you the freedom to earn an income from anywhere you choose to live and work – without being chained to a single office location.
I’ll start with the obvious good news: technology has made this dream of location independent careers a very real possibility for many people. Smartphones and laptops are one part of it, but the ability for ordinary people to outsource work and find help at places like Upwork and Fiverr is truly a game changer for people who want to launch their own micro-business.
Thanks to technology, the world is now smaller than ever.
What is a “Mobile Business?”
We don’t make any claims of being Noah Webster, but for the purposes of this article here is how we define a mobile business:
A mobile business is something that can earn income without requiring you to be physically present in a particular location. In other words, it allows you to be location independent. Even if it’s a service you provide, that service can easily be moved from Austin to Atlanta without much trouble.
Today I’m going to focus on top mobile business ideas that are grounded in reality. In other words – no hypothetical ideas about stuff that may or may not work.
Are they all easy?
Believe it or not, all of these ideas take work.
The good news is, with each idea we’ll give you an example of an “ordinary” person who is actually making it happen. So while you won’t be able to flip a switch and quit your day job, for many of you these ideas are quite doable. In fact, some of the people we highlight are actually doing a combination of different side gigs – not just one thing – which allows them to make enough money to work when they want and live where they want.
Here we go:
1. Flipping Items on Craigslist
Craigslist is pretty much universal, and there are people everywhere who make a full-time living by consistently buying and selling things on Craigslist.
As it is with most of the best mobile business ideas on our list, it requires a systematic approach if you plan to make your primary living “flipping” things on Craigslist. By choosing a “specialty” item or category, you can learn all you need to know about that product and get familiar with pricing and be able to spot good deals when you see them.
One example is buying and selling appliances on Craigslist. Ryan of ReCraigslist has made a full-time living by flipping appliances on Craigslist for years. In his Life Hacker interview he said “On average I make between $75-$200 per appliance that I sell. I buy the highest quality appliances I can find at the lowest prices. I then bring them home, clean them inside and out, fix any broken parts, touch up the paint, and repost them at less than the market rate.”
Here are the highlights of why this works for Ryan:
- Tons of supply and demand of appliances on Craigslist.
- He offers free delivery of your appliance if you give him your old washer or dryer for free.
- Most repairs are quick and affordable, meaning he makes a nice profit margin.
- Click here for more tips from Ryan about how you can do the same.
2. Become a “Ride Share” Driver
At this point we’ve all heard about Uber and Lyft, which are 2 of the big players in the ride share movement. As an alternative to taxis, these companies use technology to connect people who want a ride somewhere to people who will drive them there.
As a driver, you’ll keep about 75 – 85% of the fare cost generated.
Many people will drive for Uber as a way to make some extra money on the weekends, holidays, or other “high demand” times when people tend to need a driver. However, some people use Uber to make a full-time living.
Just how much can you make as an Uber driver? Time did a story on that recently and provided the following hourly numbers in some of their bigger markets:
He’s started a blog that covers many of the common questions and issues that ride share drivers face called TheRideShareGuy.com. He’s even gone into detail sharing his experiences and exactly what he’s making as a part-time driver for both companies.
Here is a breakdown of his first Friday driving for both Uber and Lyft.
According to Harry, “Realistically, as an Uber/Lyft driver in a major city you should be able to make $20-$35/hr depending on the time you drive. During absolute peak times, you can probably clear $30-$45/hr but that usually doesn’t last longer than 1-2 hours.
I’d say a safe estimate for normal busy times in the LA area would be $20-$30/hr and for Orange County it’s a little less at $15-$25/hr after taking into account things like gas and down time. Not bad for sitting in a cool air-conditioned car and driving people around.”
Looking to try it out? I’d suggest starting with some of the resources Harry has to offer on his site to learn more about the process.
3. Best Mobile Business Ideas – Make Money Blogging
Hear me out on this one.
People have heard time and time again about “make money blogging,” so upon reading idea #3 your eyes may glaze over and your brain silently responds with “yeah, right.”
Like all of these mobile business ideas on our list, it’s something that many people can do – but most people don’t know how to do it right. They have no plan. No strategy.
You’re not going to start a free blog today about ornamental horticulture and quit your job tomorrow.
However, creating a professional looking website has never been easier – even if you are a complete beginner. From there, you need to understand how to choose a niche and start creating the right kind of content for your site. This leads to people finding your site in Google, and ultimately you can make money through various forms of advertising (and countless other ways.)
To learn more, follow along as Spencer Haws (creator of Long Tail Pro) coaches a guy who was brand new to this process and helps him find a niche, start a site, and put together a content strategy that works. Spoiler alert: the site his student creates does very well.
Another example of a person who has had success monetizing her websites is Claire Smith. Claire was a bored dentist who wanted to work on her own terms.
She started out selling things on eBay, but eventually moved to creating content and building websites of her own. She realized that by doing keyword research and writing about thing that had little competition, she could create sites that actually got traffic from search engines.
In Claire’s case, her and her husband simply use their websites to advertise products that are sold on Amazon. By referring people to Amazon, they earn a commission on any sales that get generated without having to sell any products of their own.
While effective blogging and creating income generating websites isn’t a “get rich quick” idea – you absolutely can learn how to do it without a technical background.
Here are some other resources for how to get started with mobile small business ideas:
- Pat Flynn – How to build niche websites
- Sean Ogle – Building a site that makes over $500 per month
- Screw the 9 to 5 – How to make money with niche sites.
- Spencer Haws – Niche websites and other business ideas.
4. Do What You Do (For $5)
Perhaps you’ve used Fiverr as a consumer to get some kind of graphic design done, a custom video intro made, or something much more weird than that (I won’t ask.)
However, have you ever thought about offering your services on Fiverr?
At first, you may not think that you have anything special to offer than you could sell. But I’d encourage you to think again. The Penny Hoarder blog has a sampling of some of the things you’ll find in the “fun and bizarre” category that other people are offering for $5. Perhaps they’ll get your wheels turning:
- A piece of rare metal that will melt in your hand
- A prank phone call to anyone you choose
- Three balloons released into the sky with your message in them
- Your name written on two grains of rice
- A photo of you on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine
- A video of a woman pretending to be “crazy in love with you” — which has 253 buyers and a 98% positive ratingso far
Not into bizarre stuff? Here are some more “ordinary” ideas from the same article:
- Draw the customer as a cartoon character
- Make a photo into an avatar
- Promote a business on Facebook
- Write a short blog post
- Translate English into Chinese (300 word maximum)
- Create a video testimonial about a product
- Teach people how to play blues guitar
US News tells the story of Mark Mason, who is a publicist by trade, and how he turned Fiverr into what many would consider a full-time income. Mark offers business related services like writing emails and creating marketing copy. For these small projects he is able to earn anywhere from $150 – $300 per day in about 3 to 4 hours of work.
The story continues by saying “Mason recommends newbie sellers start with $5 gigs to test the market, and then slowly build up steam – and ratchet up their pricing – as they build their reputation on the site.”
As you move up the ladder to a level 1 and level 2 seller by completing transactions and getting positive feedback, you can start selling “gig extras” to earn more per transaction. For instance, if your $5 gig is to write a 200 word email, you could offer a gig extra to do 500 words for $10.
Since the earnings per transaction are so low, ($3.92 after Fiverr gets a cut), ideally you should find something that is very quick for you to do. Even better than that is offering access to something like a series of videos or an ebook that you’ve created – so you don’t have to do any “new” work when someone makes a purchase. Here’s an example of a guy who sold $900 worth of his ebook in just 2 months on Fiverr.
Whatever you sell, making money on Fiverr certainly fits the bill of letting you live a mobile lifestyle while earning a living.
Other places to find freelancing opportunities:
5. Online Tutoring
Tutoring students and others online is another occupation that you can take on the road. Obviously you can still tutor people the old-fashioned way (in-person) as well, but moving tutoring online gives you the ability to offer your services to a much larger group of people.
If you are currently enrolled in college or a graduate with a 4 year degree, then you are able to apply to be a tutor. Tutors are able to work their own schedule and make $20 per hour when tutoring.
Scott Bold is an example of someone who lives a location independent lifestyle and uses InstaEDU as part of his income portfolio. Scott is a math guy, but there are a number of different topics that you can teach.
According to Scott, it’s really pretty simple to get started and find work. “All you do is sign up at InstaEDU and connect your account to Gmail Chat. When opportunities in your chosen subjects of expertise become available, you are notified instantly via Gchat. If you have the time, you can freely accept a tutoring session and get to work.”
He admits it might be hard to tutor as your only full-time gig, but says that “in order to make big money, you need to be good enough at your job that students want to return to you specifically so that you can start to schedule semi-regular tutoring sessions.” He had this experience after doing a trigonometry lesson where the mother of the student said that they would start scheduling regular lessons with him.
6. Selling Microstock Photography
Even if you aren’t currently in the professional photography business, you can still make a living by selling stock photos.
Shutterstock and iStockPhoto are 2 of the big players in this industry where you can upload your photos, and then make a percentage of the sale each time someone buys a photo you’ve added. You do have to get approved first, so the caveat is that you’ll need a nice camera and the ability to take compelling, high quality photos that people want to buy.
Assuming you can do that, there is money to be made in this business.
According to the Penny Hoarder blog, “Once approved as a contributor, most microstock sites do not charge photographers to upload photos to their portfolios. Instead, the sites take a percentage of each sale. In the beginning you may make just 15% from each photo sold, but often that number can reach as much as 50%, especially if you’re willing to offer your photos exclusively to one site.”
Eliza Snow has been selling microstock full-time for years. She now runs a website helping others who want to get into this business. Eliza said: “I started selling photos online part-time while I still worked at my Monday-Friday corporate job. I made a huge commitment of time and energy to selling photos online, and was so motivated to see my earnings grow. In fact, within 3 years I was able to quit my corporate job and focus on selling microstock photos full-time.”
Rich Legg is another example of someone who started back in 2005 and eventually earned enough as a microstock photographer to make it a full-time gig.
According to the Penny Hoarder story referenced earlier, “Developing a diverse and robust portfolio is essential, since selling microstock is a numbers game. Legg recommends setting a goal of how many photos you will upload on a weekly, monthly or annual basis. His goal is 50 to 100 images a month, which is scaled back from the 200 images a month he uploaded when he was getting started.”
Getting approved as a photographer can be difficult, depending on the site. So don’t get down if you aren’t approved at first. Also – check out Eliza’s list of all the places you can sell microstock photography and try out a few different places that look promising!
7. Sell on Amazon
There are actually a couple of different ways you can sell on Amazon.
One is to do what is called “arbitrage” where you find deals on products locally, maybe a toy that is on clearance at your TJ Maxx, and send that toy into Amazon to sell it at a higher price and make a profit.
The second way is to create your own product and sell it on Amazon. This can be some completely new product that you develop, or a slight modification of something that already exists which you have manufactured and private labeled with your own brand.
Doing arbitrage is easier and faster to start. You could literally go out and start finding deals right now. There is a bit of a learning curve associated with recognizing deals, getting a seller account, etc. but it is not a difficult process. One thing that will save you a bunch of time is getting an app on your phone that lets you scan items in the store and quickly see what they sell for on Amazon, and approximately how much you’d make in profit after fees. Profit Bandit is an app I’ve used that works well.
Here are some great resources and stories of people doing very well with arbitrage:
The second option we mentioned is creating your own product to sell on Amazon. This is a more involved process, but it can pay off big time. When you create your own product, you don’t have to worry as much about other people selling the same exact thing and undercutting your prices.
Our very own, Spencer Haws recently jumped into this business and was able to generate over $4,000 in his first 30 days. Read more about how he did it here.
Spencer was inspired by his friend, Chris Guthrie, and I’d suggest starting by listening to this podcast which explains how this business works and gives some ideas for how you can get started. Chris is also doing very well selling his own brand of product on Amazon, after just a few months.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of the best mobile business ideas – not even close. However, I’ve hand selected some opportunities that are accessible to a large amount of people – IF they are willing to take action and learn along the way.
Hopefully you’ll take one or more of these ideas and run with it. Learn from some of the people mentioned who are already crushing it and get started!
If you’re planning to make money blogging (#3 on the list) or through other online avenues, don’t forget to start with a free 7 day trial of Long Tail Pro and discover the things your target audience is searching for!