Online subscription businesses thrived during the pandemic, unlike some brick-and-mortar companies that struggled to survive. Everything from shaving cream to online content can be made available through a subscription.
Chances are high that you already subscribe to one of these services, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, or DoorDash. Why not create your own?
If you are interested in education and entrepreneurship, starting your own online subscription business could be a great opportunity.
There is proven demand from consumers that this business model works. You can have a lot of control over the direction and growth of your business. And the economics of starting an online business is appealing to many.
What Is an Online Subscription Business?
Online subscription businesses offer content or services in exchange for a recurring fee. Content can come in the form of videos, web pages, or audio recordings, among other things.
Many times online subscription businesses offer a real-time element. It could be regularly released new content or an online community where subscribers can engage with each other.
The Popularity of Subscription Businesses
Most evidence suggests that subscription businesses are as popular as ever right now.
According to Zuora’s research, subscription businesses have grown 4.6 times faster over the past decade than the S&P 500, representing more traditional product-based businesses.
Online subscription businesses, which fall under the umbrella of e-commerce, got an extra boost from Covid. Studies by Digital Commerce 360 suggest that the pandemic contributed an additional $218.53 billion to e-commerce’s bottom line.
Ease of Starting an Online Subscription Business
It might be relatively easy to create your own online subscription business. This guide by CashBlog offers detailed step-by-step instructions on taking care of the logistical part of the process.
Setting up a website these days is a pretty straightforward process. Many services provide domains, hosting, and website management tools all in one.
To create the video tutorials you might offer your subscribers, you may not need to acquire specialized equipment. Most computers come equipped with the necessary camera and microphone.
The core challenge is figuring out what content you will offer through your business. And that might boil down to your expertise.
No matter what you are an expert at, other people want that knowledge and are willing to pay to get it.
Eric Ferguson runs an online subscription business called Mindful Trader that offers stock market education for a recurring subscription fee. He says, “When I created this business, I didn’t know if I would get any customers. In my circle of friends and acquaintances, a lot of what I teach is already common knowledge. But what I found after launching the business is that there were a whole lot of people who didn’t have this knowledge and were eager to get it.”
Ferguson likened his business to training people to do a job he already knew how to do. He uses videos to offer online tutorials to his subscribers. He says the videos are a core part of what his subscribers pay to access and that many teach the fundamentals.
At the bare minimum, all you need is a website and some expertise. You can teach people your knowledge through the website and charge a subscription fee for them to access it.
Economic Benefits of Starting an Online Subscription Business
First, you can save money moving from a typical hourly or salaried job to an online business. One report by FlexJobs estimates that working remotely can save $6,000 to $12,000 per year.
Beyond that, the business model might involve less financial risk than others, which is one of its most enticing aspects.
Unlike brick-and-mortar establishments that have to sign a lease or stock up on inventory, an online subscription business requires noticeably less upfront capital and start-up costs. They also require little overhead on an ongoing basis. The unavoidable ongoing costs are just for website hosting and any shopping cart service you use–which, perhaps not surprisingly, often involve paying subscription fees.
In many cases, it doesn’t take a lot of subscriptions to break even. Only a moderate number of subscriptions can generate meaningful profit.
Another significant advantage is that you can do this on the side while maintaining your existing source of income, such as your full-time job. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.
All these monetary benefits underscore the fact that the principal value of the business is the knowledge you have. You don’t need to pay for that knowledge since you already have it, and that’s why the economics of an online subscription business can be so profitable.
Online Subscriptions Are Here to Stay
The popularity of online subscription businesses has grown exponentially in recent years, and this is only likely to continue. The pandemic has acted as a catalyst for this growth, as consumers have increasingly turned to online options for content and services.
Starting an online subscription business can be highly profitable for entrepreneurs. With proven consumer demand and relatively easy logistics, it’s a fantastic way to get and stay ahead of the competition.
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Amanda Kay, an Employment Specialist and founder of My Life, I Guess, strives to keep the "person" in personal finance by writing about money, mistakes, and making a living. She focuses on what it’s like being in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and surviving unemployment while also offering advice and support for others in similar situations - including a FREE library of career & job search resources.