#SME360Analysis: Top 10 Online Businesses in 2020

#SME360Analysis: Top 10 Online Businesses in 2020

January 12, 2021 0

As we move into the new year, we can’t help but reflect on the positives and negatives associated with the year 2020. Most of us had lofty expectations for this past year, and we all watched the whole world being brought to its knees by the outbreak of the coronavirus. The ensuing lockdown and social distancing crippled our economies as our offices shut down and zoom business meetings became the next best thing.

2020 marked a highly significant shift towards the online business culture in ways never seen before. One of the great things about this development is that those successful online businesses in 2020 remain relevant today and can still be taken advantage of if you want to start your own online business in 2021.

Top 10 Online Businesses in 2020
Online Business Owner working from home

If you know where to look, you’ll find that there are more online business opportunities now more than ever and to help you get started, we’re going to lay out the top 10 online businesses in 2020. Read through them, see which you connect with, and start doing your research. 

Creation And Marketing of Digital Products

Creating a digital product or course is similar to writing an ebook because here, you’re quite simply monetising your expertise by teaching it to the others.

E-learning is exploding as an industry. Recent studies show that the industry will be worth around $350 billion by 2025, making digital products one of the best online business opportunities for creators and educators alike. Music, videos, ebooks, and online courses are a few examples. They can be held or touched, but are popular amongst consumers because they can download them and consume on their own time. 

Digital products made for great online business in 2020 because they’re inexpensive to create and distribute. You can make it once and sell it repeatedly to different people without restocking inventory or talking with suppliers. If you consider yourself an expert on a particular topic, you can package that information up and sell it in the form of a one-time fee or subscription.


In 2020, especially during the lockdown of entire nations, homemade videos became increasingly popular. Starting a YouTube channel was one of the best online businesses in 2020, and the owners of many SMEs in Africa took advantage of this, even while still working full time.

With enough people watching your videos, you’ll make money from advertisements on your channel. Additionally, you can also use your channel as a launching pad for your full-scale online business. As your audience grows, you can make money through affiliate marketing, sponsorships, branded merch, or selling books and courses.

Facebook Advertising

Facebook represents one of the largest user bases on the entire Internet. The company continues to expand and grow, earning about 85% of its money from advertising. In fact, in 2017 Facebook earned $39.9 billion from advertising revenue, and in 2019, it generated $69.7 billion from advertising in 2019, more than 98% of its total revenue for the year.

For 99%+ of niches, you can find a large portion of your target audience on Facebook through advertising campaigns. Last year, in the face of the setback brought on by the pandemic,  many SMEs in Africa businesses could barely focus on their Facebook ads. The result was an increase in the rate of hiring Facebook ad specialists to step in and do it for them.

If you would like to dabble in Facebook advertising in 2021, this is something you can learn fairly quickly. Some Facebook Ad resources to start with are: How to Create the Perfect Facebook Ad in Minutes and The Beginner’s Guide to Facebook Advertising by AdEspresso. Once you grasp the basics, you can reach out to businesses and offer to help create profitable Facebook ads.

Mastery of SEO

The truth is that, while paid ads are growing at an astounding rate, the ability to appear organically and relevantly on search engines like Google is not only becoming more competitive but also more lucrative.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) refers to getting a website to rank higher for certain “search terms” in search engines like Google. When a website ranks higher, it gets more relevant traffic and can make more revenue.

In 2020, many people capitalized on this industry and made some good money for their clients and themselves. Any number of online businesses, niche websites, and blogs can be launched with the right amount of SEO skills, so this online business is still very relevant this year. SEO skills are highly valued in the internet marketing world because if you can master SEO, companies will always be willing to pay you for your help.


Freelancing was one of the most common online businesses in 2020 and is steadily on the rise. Being a freelancer means you’re self-employed and not committed to a long-term employer. It allows you to take your office wherever you go and essentially be your own boss. 

With the rise in remote work and the gig economy, you’ll be on your way to a successful online business by going freelance. If you have a set of skills you’ve built over the years or even one you want to learn, there’s money to be made. For instance, you could turn your web designing skills, marketing, copywriting, proofreading, writing, or app developing skills into a profitable home-based business.

This was a great way to achieve freedom in 2020 because not only does freelancing allow you to work remotely, it also allows you to control your schedule. 

Webinar Business 

Webinars are possibly one of the best online businesses in 2020. Why? Because you don’t even need your own product to begin. You see, the great thing about webinar is that the platform offers you an already engaged audience, ready and willing to purchase whatever it is that you’re offering. 

If you are interested in the webinar business this year, understand that the best way to launch a webinar business is to find a product you can promote and get behind. Then, build an excellent webinar. Funnell Scripts, is an incredible piece of software that helps you build your entire webinar, including copy for ads and swipes and one of the best webinar platforms that you could use in the world is GoToWebinar.

Business Coaching

Business coaching was an incredibly lucrative online business in 2020 because it tapped into the massive market of SMEs in Africa and beyond trying to find their way in the world of commerce. If you have a deep understanding of the market forces that drive purchases in your chosen industry, then becoming a business coach could mean financial freedom for you.

The best approach here is to offer an incredible amount of value upfront, and then have people pay you for execution. Analyse the business to understand where it is today. Then discover where they want to be down the road, and figure out an approach to get them there.

Dropshipping Online Business

Dropshipping is a form of e-commerce in which you don’t have to deal with any physical products. It is a method of retail where the store never physically holds the products it sells. Instead, when the retailer sells one of the products it stocks on its website, they buy the item from a third-party supplier who then ships the item directly to the end customer.

Dropshipping was incredibly profitable in 2020 because of the number of e-commerce activities taking place around the world. In fact, despite the setback occasioned by the pandemic, last year, dropshipping profits have reached over $4 billion, which is a 7 percent year on year increase for the last ten years.

To start a dropshipping business, partner with a manufacturer or wholesaler of products in your niche. You make sales through your online store, and pass orders on to the manufacturer for fulfilment. All you have to do is set up an online shop, and work on attracting customers.

Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is a simple online business idea, someone needs their products advertised, and you can do it – for a cut of the profits. It is unique among internet marketing techniques because it operates as a distributed system by spreading out the responsibility of making impressions and promoting products or services to other parties.

Affiliate marketing was one of the most lucrative online businesses in 2020. In the US alone, this industry reached $6.8 billion in 2020, and by 2022, the affiliate marketing industry is forecasted to eclipse the $8 billion mark, nearly double what it was worth in 2015. The new year is just kicking off. If you already have an audience through a blog, podcast, or social media channel, affiliate marketing might be a monetisation strategy for you to try.

Social Media Management 

There’s no marketing without social media marketing. Social media management is an essential aspect of every business. Taking advantage of social media’s surging popularity can help you manage online interactions, deals, branding, and marketing.

If your business is not present and active on social media, it may as well not exist at all. This is a fact of life, whether you like it or not. Even so, just being present – or even being active – is not enough to achieve results. It has to be the right sort of activity and presence. In 2020, social media managers helped many SMEs in Africa by making their digital presence felt on social media platforms and helping them attract more traffic while retaining their loyal customers.

If you’re good at creating content and engaging with audiences in social media, social media management is a perfect online business idea for you this year as well.


It’s a new year and a new chance for you to start an online business and create an absolute financial and lifestyle freedom for yourself. With this list of top online businesses in 2020, I hope you have plenty of options to get started with. Take a few ideas and run with them. Don’t wait any longer, and definitely, don’t put it off until next year!

Linda Onyinyechukwu
Linda Onyinyechukwu
Linda Onyinyechukwu
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